City May Correct Flawed Fines Ordinance
Last week an elderly and crippled Central widow was forced to pay an additional $2,183.51 in property taxes to keep her home from going to tax sale. The source of the additional charges was a lien placed on her home by the City of Central as “costs” for appearing before Central’s administrative court regarding an ordinance violation. The City of Central charged her with an ordinance violation for high weeds and rubbish on her 10 acre rural property. Although she was not assessed any fines, the city still charged her over $2,000 in "costs" for for having to appear before Central’s administrative court.
The citizen contacted Central Speaks a year ago and told her story. As a result, Central Speaks investigated state law and Central’s ordinances and determined that the city had no lawful right to assess the fines. The newspaper sent the findings to Mayor Shelton and all City Council Members and asked three questions for clarification.
Mayor Shelton responded to the questions by saying that Central’s fees and costs were allowed by state law, that Central properly established its fines, fees, and costs, and that Central has the right to enter onto private property without permission to document code violations.
This past Tuesday, an ordinance was introduced at the Council meeting which corrects the exact flaws in Central’s laws that Central Speaks asserted a year ago were in conflict with state law. However, there is nothing in the new ordinance to suggest that the City may trespass on private property as Mayor Shelton asserts the City has a right to do.
Correcting the ordinance on April 25th should bring Central’s administrative adjudication process in line with state law, but it will not retroactively correct the unlawful fines and costs levied against Central citizens. Mayor Shelton’s office has not announced any intention to return fines and costs charged to Central citizens under the prior flawed ordinance.