- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2000

CARTHAGE, Tenn. Al Gore's campaign yesterday struggled to control political damage stemming from a dispute over the plumbing in a house the vice president rents to a disabled man and his handicapped children.

After a telephone call to the family on Saturday, to cancel an eviction notice and promise repairs to a clogged septic system, the vice president dispatched his plumber and his Tennessee attorney to the home yesterday morning.

Tracy Mayberry, the tenant, was not satisfied. She said she was frustrated by the "double talk" from the Gore camp and threatened to vote for Gov. George W. Bush in November.

The Republican National Committee leaped at the opportunity to make a little hay out of the dispute, noting that the Mayberry family lives on disability payments from Social Security a program that Mr. Gore has made a priority in his campaign. Mrs. Mayberry's husband suffers congestive heart disease and diabetes.

The couple are the parents of five children, including one daughter who is prone to seizures and another who suffers from a manic-depressive disorder known as "agoraphobia," an abnormal fear of open spaces.

Gore spokesman Douglas Hattaway said the vice president felt "terrible" about the incident on learning from a Nashville television newscast Friday that his tenants were living in squalid conditions and were about to be evicted by Gore Realty, which manages the property.

"The vice president didn't know about any of this," Mr. Hattaway told The Washington Times. "He said the eviction was wrong and he overruled it. He's bending over backward to make it right."

Mrs. Mayberry said she and her husband had complained for several months to Mr. Gore's property managers about clogged toilets, overflowing sinks and the odor of sewage that permeates the four-bedroom house, which is within sight of the vice president's home on property 50 miles east of Nashville.

Mrs. Mayberry said: "A week ago Saturday, my husband had called the managers again and said, 'Listen, my sink is still backed up and it smells like rotten eggs. Can we please get a plumber out here and get it fixed?' They said, 'OK, they'll see if they can get a plumber out here.'

"But then on Tuesday we got a message in the mail that we had a certified letter to pick up from Gore. I picked up the letter and it was from the managers saying we had 30 days to move because of unsanitary conditions at the home."

Mrs. Mayberry said she called Gore Realty and was told the family had to move out by June 26 so that the Secret Service could take over the house.

"I said what makes it any better for them?" she said. "I mean, if you're putting us out because of unsanitary conditions, why are you letting the Secret Service move in?"

Mr. Hattaway said yesterday that as far as he knew, there had never been a plan for the Secret Service to move into the house.

Mrs. Mayberry called a Nashville television station and denounced the vice president as a "slumlord." The next day, she said, she received a call from Mr. Gore.

"I was shocked when he called me and introduced himself," Mrs. Mayberry said. "He told me he was sorry for all the problems, that he was unaware of them which I consider to be a lie, I really do.

"He told me anything that I would like to have fixed, he would see to it that it was done. He said that he would rent us a comfortable home to live in, that he would pay the rent on it till the house got renovated here and then move us back in. But I'm beginning to question that too.

"The so-called plumber showed up this morning and commenced to saying, 'Well, I don't think there's anything wrong with the sewer,' " she said. "It's backed up through my house and it smells terrible. I go around with a spray bottle of bleach all the time, because bleach smells better than sewage."

Mrs. Mayberry was not impressed by the vice president's Tennessee attorney, James Bass, either, when he arrived with the plumber.

"He apologized and said he didn't think Gore knew anything about it. You know, just your typical lawyer stuff.

"He said, 'We're going to try to fix the plumbing while you're in there.' But Al Gore said Saturday, 'We can't fix the plumbing while you're in there. We're gonna have to move you out.' I mean, it's all double talk and no satisfaction."

A steady stream of reporters has called at the Mayberry home since the story broke, and a spokesman for the Republican National Committee accused Mr. Gore of breaking his promise to invite the family "over for dinner the next time he's in town," as he was reported to have told the Nashville television station.

"Gore obviously made this promise to the Mayberry family only as an exercise in damage control," committee Chairman Jim Nicholson said in a statement titled "Just 24 Hours Later, Gore Stiffs Tenants on Dinner."

"Once again, we've had a glimpse behind the curtain at the real Al Gore the Al Gore who will do anything and say anything," he said.

Mr. Gore has had problems before in Carthage. In 1992, the farm was found to be a site of a large open dump filled with pesticide containers, aerosol cans, old tires, used filters filled with waste oil, and unrecycled cans and bottles. A Gore spokesman said the dump belonged to Mr. Gore's father, Albert Gore Sr., the former Democratic senator from Tennessee.

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