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Mayor and Council Meet To Discuss Municipal Offense Ticket, New Police Chief Search

In a special called meeting held in the upstairs courtroom of Columbus City Hall, Mayor Robert Smith and the Columbus City Council met Tuesday afternoon to discuss two main agenda topics. The first was enforcement of a city ordinance adopted on January 2, 2002, dealing with Municipal Ticket offenses such as (to put it in layman’s terms) city residents doing work on vehicles in their back yards.
City Inspector Derrick Nash explained that, up until now, the ordinance had gone largely unenforced. So much so that Nash said a ticket of violation had never been written as a result of the ordinance since its adoption. Mainly because of questions about how to legally enforce certain stipulations of the ordiance. Many of those questions were recently answered by a Mississippi attorney general’s opinion, according to City Attorney Jeff Turnage.
And, a main difference between enforcement of this ordinance and codes dealing with dilapidated houses and overgrown lots is: those matters have always been taken up before the mayor and council, whereas this ordinance will be enforced through use of the municipal court system. A violator can be hauled before a city judge and would answer charges in the court system.
Columbus Mayor Robert Smith asked Nash, “what personnel that works for the city would be allowed to help uphold the ordinance?”
Nash answered, “well, right now…everyone in the building department can do it. I believe that Mr. Pratt (Mike Pratt, Public Works Director) would be authorized to use it.”
Ward 3 City Councilman Charlie Box wondered why the city has had this ordinance in place for nearly 10 years but never used it. That’s when Turnage explained the attorney generals opinion dealing with the ordinance.
“We’ve got the overgrown lot state law, which is very comprehensive. There was a couple of attorney generals opinions that came out over the last four years that said that’s exclusive means of enforcing overgrown lots and dilapidated houses. And it makes sense when you read it, the state Legislature speaks in great detail on a subject, it’s presumed that they intend to pre-empt the local government from doing something…more than that, different from that. I requested an attorney generals opinion maybe three months ago, and got the response back in the last couple or three weeks…well, that is the exclusive method for the city to do it, but it can also pursue them (violations) as a misdemeanor. So…that was the first time that they’ve given an opinion. In addition to overgrown, dilapidation, this would allow Municipal Offense tickets to be issued for many other things,” Turnage said.
Discussion turned to how to catch violators when Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens asked Nash about residents with fences that would hide would-be violations.
Nash explained that the violators would have to be viewed from plain view (such as a public street or sidewalk) or if a neighbor allowed enforcement personnel access to their property to view possible violations.
Turnage said in such a case of a fence preventing view of possible violations, probable cause would have to be established and if a resident is found in possible violation, a warrant could be issued to search the property for inspectors to gain access for verification.
Nash went on to explain that possible violators would be warned first. If found in violation, a resident would be told of the violation with a chance to comply with the ordinance before a monetary fine would be imposed.
Ward 5 City Councilman Kabir Karriem wanted to discuss the Columbus Police Chief search. (The subject will be discussed further in Ron Williams column)


1 comment

  1. KJ

    “offenses such as (to put it in layman’s terms) city residents doing work on vehicles in their back yards.”

    Seriously? And where are people that can’t afford to take a car to a mechanic supposed to work on their vehicles if not on their property? Maybe you’re not talking about a guy with a two-day project to complete. Maybe you’re talking about something visible for months. We need fewer reasons to be screwing with real people’s lives instead of finding new reasons to fine them for trying to live their lives.

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