Over the past few years, I've come to hear stories from a few people about our local Code Enforcement office that makes them sound something like our local Gestapo. Not ever being affected though, I didn't pay much attention to it. Until this week.
I thought I'd post my letter to our City Manager here on the Blog and see if there might be anyone else out there that has had similar, disturbing experiences, in hopes that perhaps the citizenry might reign in on this office with an outpouring of similar stories ...
June 29, 2005
City of Sarasota
fax - 941-954-4129
Dear Mr. McNees:
My name is Kelly Kirschner and we met a few months ago at a SCOPE
event held at Marina Jacks. I write to you today as a lifelong
citizen of the City of Sarasota outraged by the lack of excellence in
service brought to the City's residents by City government staff in
your Code Enforcement office.
Just married this past month, I am currently looking to rent my former residence found on 2478 Novus Street. There's not much traffic on the street, so I had purchased a $5 unobtrusive (3' x
1') red-arrow "For Rent" sign which was placed on a neighbor's yard,
well outside of the right away at the intersection of Novus
and Shade Avenue. The sign certainly helped and calls picked up.
Mysteriously, though, the sign soon disappeared. Another sign was
purchased, placed in the same place, and again disappeared.
Disturbed by vandals or unscrupulous landlords in the area who were
stealing "For Rent" signs so they would not have to buy their own, I
had no other option but to purchase my third sign. It was to my great shock, then, when my neighbor, Stan Zimmerman, told me Monday evening that he had witnessed a City employee in a marked "Code Enforcement" vehicle going onto the neighbor's private property, pulling my sign out of the ground, and throwing it into the vehicle.
Irate, I called the Code Enforcement office yesterday and was routed
into Curtis Gillespie's voice mail. Mr. Gillespie returned my call
this morning at 7:45 a.m. and told me that the individual assigned to
my area of town had pulled the signs, "because they were in the right
of way." When I told him that this was a blatant mistruth and that it was on private property, beyond the right of way, he informed me that he wasn't sure, but that I could have been fined for having placed an "off-site advertisement" on a piece of property that is not my house. I questioned Mr. Gillespie if this were the case then why would they literally steal three signs and not once inform me of my infraction or attempt to issue a citation? I further pressed, if City employees have cell phones and every one of the signs that they had stolen from me had my cellular phone number on it, why did they not have the common decency to call and inform me, warn me, issue a citation, etc? Mr.Gillespie offered no answers or explanations. At this, I demanded that my signs be returned to me. Mr. Gillespie told me he had to call the person who removed the sign and that he would call me back. He called me back within 5 minutes and informed me that all of the signs -- all of the brand new signs, with my phone number on them, were thrown away.
I have a serious problem with the way my City runs this office. I
find it outrageous that they can silently steal private property
without notification and thereby instill in its citizens a sense of
mistrust of our neighbors -- as I believed with the first two signs
that it was my neighbors robbing them. I find it outrageous that in
our small City, with our large property taxes, fees, etc, that a Code
Enforcement employee cannot spend 2 minutes making a phone call to me
the FIRST time I may have been in violation to explain to me the
infraction and give me the opportunity to remove or retrieve the sign
from the Code Enforcement office. Mr Gillespie made it very clear
that this is not in the Code Enforcement protocol nor did he have any
intention of taking it under consideration, much less have any empathy for the waste of $15 in signs that his office had destroyed. So I ask, what is my City trying to foster here with its citizens and can we not demand and expect more? Is there no protocol or ethos with all City employees in treating its citizens with respect, courtesy and a will to inform?
I would greatly appreciate to learn more on how Citizen Service works
in the City as well as receive a copy of the exact rules for signage
in renting a single-family home in the City. Finally, I would like
the return of the three "For Rent" signs immediately or restitution
for the destroyed signs.
I appreciate your attention to this and hope that I can be part of a
process that's encouraging of creating a better City to live in for