Oskaloosa City Council members, Hayes not on same page

by Dennis Sharkey

Some Oskaloosa City Council members seem to not be on the same page with City Attorney Mike Hayes.

Several times during a discussion at the council’s last meeting on Jan. 17 concerning issues pertaining to the Health Board, City Councilman John Norman took issue with one of Hayes’ statements or made an accusation.

Hayes was going through properties that the council had served with letters to alleviate code violations concerning property. The violations range from tall weeds or unkept vegetation to yards littered with junk, appliances or broken down vehicles.

Many of the properties served were returned unclaimed or it has been determined that the property has no owner or the only owner on file is deceased.

During a discussion about a particular property Hayes told the council that they did not mail the letter to the correct address and on another they did not have the proper name on the notice.

“I believe that is the address your office gave to us,” Norman said.

Norman became frustrated with Hayes during the discussion of a property that had been sent notice because of several exterior issues that included trash and dilapidated appliances in the yard.

He became frustrated when Hayes said a visual inspection of the property did not turn up the claims the city made in the notice. Norman interrupted him while he was still speaking.

“Did you see the big pile of trash in the backyard and the discarded appliances and the old building that is fallen in?” Norman questioned.

Hayes responded by saying he did not get out and walk the property.

“You don’t have to get out and walk on the property,” a frustrated Norman said.

Councilwoman Kathy Griffin asked Hayes if his office reviews the letters or the situation before anything is mailed.

Hayes responded by saying he was not consulted.

“Nobody talked to us,” he said.

Norman told Hayes that his statement was not true and that he has been by Hayes’ office several times to discuss issues.

“You didn’t show up at the last appointment my wife scheduled for you,” Hayes responded.

“She told me I didn’t have to come to the last appointment because you weren’t going to be there,” Norman responded.

“No she didn’t,” Hayes said. “That’s not what she said.”

Hayes continued going through the properties. In several of the cases Hayes told the council that they would have to start the process over because proper notice was not given. He said some certified letters were returned signed but not by the owner thus making them invalid.

However, some council members believe Hayes’ position switched when the discussion turned to a specific property on Herkimer Street.

Councilman Gary Bryant asked Hayes if the council should develop a checklist of issues for him to review that the council could use in going through the process of serving someone and getting them into court.

Hayes seemed to discount the idea and said every situation is unique.

Hayes said in the past a game plan was developed for each situation.

“They will come in and we will put together a game plan just like we did when we took down two drug houses,” Hayes said.

Bryant responded by saying that some situations have a lot of things in common.

“There are still certain things that are the same before you can start taking a look at them,” Bryant said.

In a strange twist Hayes responded by saying he was not going to take action against elderly people who do not live in the homes but are being taken advantage of by their children.

“I can just tell you that I’m not going to bring an action against an elderly person when they are not occupying the house. Okay?” Hayes said. “I don’t think it’s fair to that person.

“I will go after the children but I will not go after the mother,” Hayes added.

Hayes’ proclamation did not sit well with Bryant and he questioned Hayes in a puzzling manner.

“But what you just told us is we can’t go after a property unless the owner signs the paperwork?” Bryant said.

Hayes responded by saying that the owners are not the ones causing the problems. He said in the past he and Police Chief Rick Jones paid a visit to the elderly woman who was unnamed.

“We would get results,” Hayes said confidently. “But that’s just the way (Jones) and I do business. It seems to work most of the time.”

Bryant and others on the council seemed to still be puzzled by Hayes’ stance.

“But you’ve laid out several scenarios to us where the owner has to be accountable,” Bryant said. “But you just told us you wouldn’t hold an owner accountable.”

“I said I wouldn’t hold this owner accountable,” Hayes quickly responded.

Bryant again told Hayes that with his explanation the city still does not have anyone to hold accountable.

Hayes said the elderly mother may ask them to take action against the children if asked.

At that point Bryant looked at Mayor Mike Paavola and told him they might as well move on because the discussion wasn’t going anywhere.

“Sounds to me like there’s a bunch of them who know how to play the game,” Paavola said.

“Sounds like it,” Griffin echoed.

Before the discussion turned to a dead end, Norman expressed frustration with having multiple properties still not in compliance despite several months of efforts. Norman’s tone was one of failure.

“If those folks need to sell their home because of transfer or whatever….what have we done to them?” Norman said.

Norman’s response came after hearing several reasonings by Hayes as to why it will be difficult for the council to solve some of the problems. Hayes tried to console the council by telling them that their problems are not unique and other cities the same size are facing the same issues.

“Ever since I’ve been on this council that’s all I’ve heard from citizens is ‘What are you going to do about it?’” Norman said. “We’re trying to do something about it but I guess we’re not doing it the right way.”

After the discussion Hayes requested a closed session meeting to discuss matters of attorney-client privilege. After 20 minutes the council came back into open session but went back into closed session with Hayes for some additional time.

After the meeting the council went into closed session by themselves to discuss non-elected personnel.

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Posted by on Feb 8 2012. Filed under Government, Municipalities, Oskaloosa. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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