The fate of a Kennewick home rented by multiple sex offenders is in limbo after the city filed a civil lawsuit asking that all tenants move out.
Roger Reiboldt -- the home's owner and leader of Kennewick's Steel against Steel Ministries -- has misused his property at 1132 N. Arthur St. and is in violation of city code, said the lawsuit filed last month in Benton County Superior Court.
Neighbors have complained to city and state officials about the house since Reiboldt started renting to offenders in 2009.
Kennewick records show police have been called to the home at least 42 times in the past four years.
The lawsuit claims Reiboldt, a self-ordained minister, refuses to stop renting the five bedroom home illegally. He was served July 17 and has not yet filed a response, said Kennewick City Attorney Lisa Beaton. If no response is filed, a judge could rule in favor of the city.
"I have no idea what to expect from Mr. Reiboldt," Beaton said. "I really don't."
Although he hasn't yet filed a response, Reiboldt said he is prepared to go to court with the city to continue housing offenders.
"The city will get a response," Reiboldt said Friday. "If they do intend to sue me, I will meet them in court."
Reiboldt recently filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, according to federal documents. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is designed for people with regular income who want to pay their debts in installments.
The house -- which sits on a small dead-end street off Canal Drive -- is also in foreclosure, Beaton said.
Neighbors optimistic home will be shut down
As Reiboldt tries to overcome the obstacles and keep his ministry afloat, neighbors are optimistic that the house will soon be shut down.
"Some people think he will find a way to stay there," said neighbor Lloyd Washan. "I think he has given up. There seems to be a light at the end of a tunnel."
There were at least six sex offenders living at the house at the beginning of July, according to police records. Now, there are five sex offenders registered there. Reiboldt claims there are only three.
Chris Tarr, who lives next door to the house, has watched offenders come and go through the years. The whole neighborhood is looking forward to having them gone, he said.
"I want to have a swimming pool in the front yard next summer," he said. "Kids want to ride their bikes around here. People are hoping something actually happens."
The city of Kennewick and the Kennewick Police Department have asked the state Department of Corrections not to place any more offenders in Reiboldt's house.
Corrections has agreed to stop placing offenders at the address for the time being, said Joel Fort, the community corrections supervisor in Benton County.
"Right now I can tell you we are totally and completely not looking to place anyone at that address," Fort said. "That doesn't mean in the future, if things change, we won't look at that address."
Currently, only one of the sex offenders living in the house was placed there by the corrections department, Fort said. He uses a voucher provided by the department to pay rent.
The sex offender's voucher will run out next week, said Theodore Lewis, the corrections department's program administrator for housing.
'God will fight for me'
Last week, Reiboldt told his tenants in a moment of frustration that he could no longer house them, he said.
He quickly changed his tune after realizing it was God's way of challenging him to clean up the house and make it safer, he said.
"Right now I have to dance the jig," he said. "I am not going to give up because somebody hates me. I am not going to give up this ministry because someone thinks I broke a rule."
The backlash from neighbors and other members of the community has recently caused offenders to leave his house for fear of their personal safety, Reiboldt said.
It has also made him realize how important it is to try to help people who are outcasts in society.
"You have no clue what these guys go through," Reiboldt said. "The ministry, one day, when I get some money behind it, will publicize their side of the story."
Sex offenders living at the house declined to comment to the Herald.
Reiboldt's ministry is in a "reorganizing phase," he said. He recently passed out new contracts to tenants, which outline 19 house rules people must follow if they want to live there.
Reiboldt has even thought about renting to just two offenders, which would be allowed under current city code.
He won't go down without a fight, he said.
"I am not going to quit because of a bunch of (stuff) that happened," he said, his voice becoming more animated. "I will have my day in court and God will fight for me."
-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @Ty_richardson