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09.21.06 -- REPORT: Clearing codes, battling bias, Part 3 - Great wall of McIntosh

Great Wall of McIntosh

Part 3 of 3 articles about McIntosh's latest Code Enforcement Board meeting

By CHER PHILLIPS

The Smith-Henderson’s, the couple who built the wall on U.S. 441, did not show up for their hearing Wednesday but sent their attorney, Mutch, instead. The board members initially balked at this move. Glass said he was going to excuse himself because he felt the property owners should be present at the hearing.

“I don’t desire to go forward when the property owners aren’t here,” Glass said. “I think it should be postponed or continued 30 days from now but not without the owners being here.”

Mutch said the Smith-Hendersons would not be back until December but that he was authorized to argue the case for them. Fellman said he didn’t see a problem with their absence and was ready to move forward.

“I think that when we’re dealing with property rights – the most sacred thing in this nation – that the owners should be present,” Glass said. He also questioned whether Mutch was authorized or not to represent the couple asking to see a signed contract employing Mutch to speak for him.

Fellman again said the proceeding would go forward without the property owners present.

“I won’t sit in on this without that,” Glass said. “I can’t in all good conscious sit in on this, I’ll excuse myself.”

But Glass soon changed his mind.

Mutch said he had intended to ask for a recusal from both Glass and Fellman because the Smith-Hendersons had made formal complaints against both men’s property for code violations.

When Glass heard this, he sat down.

“Well, I have to stay now,” Glass said.

“Then we can proceed with the hearing,” Fellman said.
At this point, the rest of the meeting consisted of a power struggle between Mutch and the two board members insisting that Fellman and Glass step down due to conflict of interest.

Mutch said the Smith-Hendersons did not feel that they could receive fair treatment after making complaints against the Fellmans and the Glasses.

“I didn’t even look at that until just now,” Fellman said. “Are we here to beat each other to death or we here to get your client a fair hearing? You seem to be goading us – continually…”

“Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman…,” Glass interrupted.

“I’m not done yet, Bill,” Fellman said. “All we’re trying to do is give your client a fair hearing. But you have, sir, an attitude problem as far as I’m concerned but that does not mean I can even give you a fair hearing.”

“I doubt that, sir,” Mutch said.

“Well, that’s your opinion. In my opinion, I know what is in my heart and in my fai… head,” Fellman said.

Mutch asked why Fellman was raising his voice at him.

“Because you, sir, can make anyone raise their voice,” Fellman said.

Glass interrupted and said, “I thought we weren’t going to do this.”

“Bill,” Fellman said and slammed down a plastic mallet which served as a gavel, “Let me finish, please.”

Fellman turned back to Mutch.

“Because you, sir, are sticking sticks in people’s eyes,” Fellman said. “If you would sit back comfortably and let us get on with this, I can assure that despite my personal feelings about you – whatever you believe they are, I can give you a fair hearing.”

Mutch quoted case law and said if there was a request by a client to a judge to recuse himself and that judge responded as Fellman had that night, the recusal was automatic. Mutch went on to remind the board members they were trained as lay people and not as professional judges.

“If the Supreme Court says they [judges] can’t put away that type of prejudice, then how can you go forward tonight with what you have said and how you’ve raised your voice,” Mutch said.

Mutch told him the case law is clear that once a request for recusal is made and the court makes a comment, then the judge is automatically disqualified.

Glass said that the argument was pointless.

“If you read our ordinances, code enforcement does not make those disclaimers about personality differences,” Glass said.

He went on to explain what he thought the scope of the powers of the code enforcement board were, as he saw it, and why he thought the arguement with Mutch about bias had no purpose.

“Since we do have home rule and since basically anything that two of us agree to is legal,” Glass said. “Whether it’s defensible or not is his issue at another court of law."

Glass said that Mutch had had "ample opportunity to get an issuing judge to review any decisions that we made.”

“On that alone," Glass said, "this psychobabble isn’t doing us much good and if you want to, I will make a motion that this be postponed to December the 25th.”

Fellman started to remind him that Dec. 25 was Christmas Day but Glass interrupted him and said, “That’s exactly why I made that motion.”

He then amended the motion to Dec. 1.


A stalement came down between Mutch and Glass and Fellman. The board members wanted Mutch to put the issue off until December. Mutch wanted them to step down and not judge his clients because they’d been accused of code violations by the clients and he said they were biased against him. Mutch reiterated that there had been complaints made about both the Fellmans' and the Glasses' properties.

“I will not recuse myself based on this,” Fellman said after reading documents containing the motion.

Mutch countered Fellman's reasoning, explaining he thought the board members' bias was broader than the complaints.

“What I’m saying is that you have a problem, not so much with my clients but supposedly with me, and when that happens in court, there’s an assignment of other judges,” Mutch said.

“The only problem I have with you is that you seem to want to delay this hearing and we just want to get on and give you a proper and fair hearing,” Fellman said. Fellman did not mention that Glass also wanted to postpone the hearing.

"My clients told me because of the manner in which you and Mr. Glass have worked in the past, in your attempts to do whatever within the city," Mutch said. "You can not without prejudice hear their case tonight.”

Mutch asked that they postpone the hearing until two other code enforcement members would be present to replace Fellman and Glass.

While Fellman denied even knowing the Henderson-Smiths outside their complaints about the former code enforcement officer, Glass said he refused to recuse himself.

“This is a trumped-up charge,” Fellman said of the motion and the code complaints.

Mutch countered with, “Are code enforcement complaints ‘trumped-up’?”

Gifford said the board needed to make a motion about the recusal.

Glass, having taken the documents containing the motion to read, then threw them over the table to the floor in front of the board.

Mutch asked that Glass' throwing the documents on the floor be entered into the record.

“I couldn’t wipe my butt with it, that’s why I did it,” Glass said.

Arguments then broke out among Glass and Fellman and Mutch and Gifford leading Mutch to call for voire dire – which means that he can cross examine the court about matters of bias to determine prejudice.

Fellman allowed Mutch the time to cross-examine Glass. But the attorney had trouble getting a complete sentence out without Glass immediately replying “No, no, not at all, no” over his questions.

“You do have a problem with me, even hearing me ask you questions tonight,” Mutch said. “You seem to be upset…”

Glass interrupted him. “Only because you seem to be having a misinterpretation of have-you-had-your-Prozac or whatever it is your problem is,” Glass said.

Mutch insisted Glass recuse himself and still, Fellman refused to recuse himself or Glass.

Finally, Mutch agreed to postpone the hearing to a date to be determined.

"I intend to stick on this as chairman,” Fellman said.

When the next case was called – the Oliver case – Glass and Fellman started to argue between themselves and Glass walked out, ending the meeting.

Prolouge: This meeting sets the stage for next week's Sept. 27 meeting in which Pedro Molinas will come back before the board. Casey Girardin, owner of Sportsman's Cove, is also scheduled for that meeting. Girardin not only hired Mutch as her attorney, she filed code complaints - as the Smith-Henderson's have - against the Glasses and the Fellmans. To complicate matters, Girardin circulated recall petitions this summer against two former council members, as well as an open letter against the former code enforcement officer.

posted by Cher @ 9:52 PM,

6 Comments:

At   September 23, 2006 9:06 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

I do not understand grown men behaving like babies. These people, the Henderson-Smiths, live out of town. They sent their attorney (at great expense, I'm sure) to handle their legal matter with the town. Does Bill Glass not respect that these people need to get on with the building of their wall? I do not understand why we can't let people live in this town! Aren't we tired of petty arguments, yet?

 
At   September 23, 2006 11:54 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Bill Glass is a disgrace to our
town! I do not understand why he
is allowed to serve on any of the
towns boards! He is not only an
embarrassment to McIntosh and the
Code Enforcement Board, but also
for his behavior elsewhere.

 
At   September 24, 2006 8:59 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Having someone with that level of anger being the final judge on property disputes in this community is frightening. I agree with him though.....prozac mght be helpful.

 
At   September 26, 2006 1:28 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Two questions:

1. If the Smith-Henderson's have been out of town, how have they observed any code errors at either of the homes they filed against? Is the attorney up to no good?

2. Why wasnt BG (I dont even want to mention the name)immediatly removed from the room by the deputy that was there - the attorney was threatned with that for much less..

 
At   September 26, 2006 3:48 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At   September 26, 2006 4:55 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

EDITED POST:

"Anonymous said...

The [ALLEGED] code violations with the Fellmans and the Glass are in plane sight! I hate to talk bad against others but these couples are like a EDITED OUT that wont go away! It's also very sad that you have to bring an attorney just to attend any of these meetings.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006 3:48:00 PM"

Editor's note: I try to leave well enough alone with everyone's comments because I believe people's opinions are their own, regardless of whether or not I agree or disagree. I felt as an editor this anonymous comment was questionable. Edits are shown in CAPS. The rest of the comment is as it was written. If you have questions, please e-mail me.

 

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Editor and Publisher:

I'm Cher From McIntosh, FL I'm a graduate student at the University of Florida working on a master's degree in Mass Communication. While I was finishing my undergrad degree in journalism last year, I reported on McIntosh, Fla. for an in-depth reporting class. I figured that the reporting and the public record files should go somewhere people can access them. Reporters don't report to keep the information they find to themselves. Some of that reporting is included here in a forum that allows response. McIntosh suffers because with no news coverage, the local government and the rumor mill have too much potential to run rampant over residents. I moved to McIntosh in the fall of 1999. My profile

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