Saturday, July 22, 2006


The Star ran an interesting story yesterday about how a white collar crime impacted the inner-city. There was just one thing about it that irked me. One paragraph:
Beyond the quiet shuffle of paperwork in the Jackson County recorder’s office, (Brent) Barber didn’t make much noise as he bought and sold houses between 1999 and 2001. But since he pleaded guilty to more than 100 federal felonies earlier this year, neighborhood leaders, community development officials and others have begun to assess how his conduct affected the city’s social fabric.

Actually, he made a lot of noise. I began hearing about him in 2001, and I seriously pursued the story. Back then he was known around the city as "The Yellow Sign People," because his rentals all displayed yellow signs on the front lawn. The story was this: The Blue Hills neighborhood had long struggled with an absentee landlord who rented dozens of houses under Section 8 contracts with the federal government. These places were decrepit, and in one instance the landlord -- who lived in Boca Raton -- even continued collecting federal rent checks on a house with a dead body in it. It took the feds years and years and years and years to dump this guy from their contract and seize control of the properties. When they finally did, they sold them at auction -- where a good nonprofit, Kansas City Neighborhood Alliance was outbid by Brent Barber.

Even though I fiiled an FOIA request and got stacks of documents, I couldn't quite bring the story home. So it went to a better journalist than I -- Allie. And her story, written three years ago, totally kicked ass. In fact, I think it's safe to say her story kicked the federal investigation into high gear.


Anonymous said...

Allie did well on so many stories.

Anonymous said...

I lived and grew up with Brent Barber in Raymore. We were roomates and friends for many years. Like many friends we had a falling out etc. and fell out of touch. Brent had many weaknesses, i.e. steroids, drugs, bi-polar problems etc. which may have contributed to his situation. He has been tried in the Cass county courts for various crimes including car theft.

I believe that the use of steroids, the big home, and all that goes with that life style shows a man with low self esteem and issues that go back to his childhood with his father and brother (Junior and Brett Barber). I am quite sure there is a story in the telling with either one of these characters. Junior I believe is still developing property in the Cass county area and Brett who knows?