Should property owners who accumulate hefty fines for code violations appear before a Special Magistrate?
City Commissioners here want to explore the possibility. Currently violators’ cases are reviewed by the City Commission, which levies fines or reduces liens. Under the existing system, property owners can file an application for a lien reduction, which is either approved or denied by the City Commission, explained Commissioner Julie Carson.
Mayor Justin Flippen and Commissioners Gary Resnick and Paul Rolli want to explore the possibility of switching to a Special Magistrate to remove the subjectivity from the existing process.
Commissioners directed City Attorney Kerry Ezrol to research the matter and create an ordinance for future review.
Flippen said he has received numerous comments from the general public saying they did not “see consistency from us.”
“How we arrive at our decisions is not very consistent,” Flippen said. “I prefer a clearly articulated policy to ensure consistency, equity of treatment. I don’t see this as a ceding of authority. We are establishing a process.”
According to Code Compliance Supervisor Julio Davila, the sum of the total liens in the city from 2016-2019 is $1,764,000, an amount was reduced to $975,753.54 in fines. Of that, $769,696.46 has been paid, Davila said.
City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson suggested that a proposed ordinance set limitations for how much a fine could be reduced. She proposed that a lien on an owner occupied property be reduced by no less than 15 percent of the total lien, and a lien on a non-owner occupied property be reduced no less than 25 percent of the total lien.
Vice Mayor Tom Green was strongly opposed to the proposed switch to a Special Magistrate, saying it was against his personal philosophy.
“I feel this City Commission has less authority than most City Commissions in the county. I certainly would not be in support of another such thing happening,” Green said.
“I think the City Commission has done a good job is expressing their authority and not losing our small town atmosphere. I would like to continue in similar manner. I really believe it is critically important we remain accessible to the community and be able to make decisions,” she said.
Resnick disagreed, saying the city needs a more objective way to review liens.
“There is no objectivity to this. It’s based on the opinions of five people. I think we’re not doing a good service to the residents of our city,” he noted.
Rolli said he would like to see a process that is more transparent.
“I’m in favor of it,” Rolli said.