Elected Officials and Ordinance Enforcement

Reviewed: June 12, 2024

Visitor Question: Is it legal for the Mayor or city council member to enforce city ordinances but not obey them on their own properties?

Editors Reply

Well, of course illegal behavior is illegal, regardless of who is misbehaving.

But somehow it seems doubly unfair, doesn't it, when we see hypocrisy among those who are elected to make laws and to oversee the hiring of staff to enforce laws.

Unfortunately it isn't extremely unusual to see elected officials ignore zoning laws, where zoning isn't a strong part of the community's tradition.

It's even more common to see mayors, board chairs, and city councilpersons feel like they can ignore building codes, property maintenance codes, or even nuisance ordinances when those things are inconvenient.

Again, this disregard for the laws the elected officials are responsible for making becomes more common in a situation where there is no widespread community support for the particular ordinances in question.

As a citizen, you are well within your rights to point out flagrant disregard of the law on the part of those who are supposed to be public servants.

If you are in a place that is large enough to have media, definitely feel free to tip off the press to this behavior. Give them specifics and ask them to protect your identity.

Even in a small town or village, you can use the power of word of mouth to try to discourage this sort of bad behavior. If you are spreading the word, please try your very best to give facts and specifics rather than trying to discredit through unsupported and vague statements.

Your ultimate power over this sort of thing is to elect a better caliber of public official, and we hope you will use your power to organize public opinion to try to do just that.

If for some reason you are reluctant to become involved in electoral politics, perhaps an action such as organizing a neighborhood association (if in a city large enough to have different neighborhoods) or organizing a clean government group would be something you would undertake.

If the facts are on your side, you may be successful in leading to better government in your community. We sure hope so.

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Feb 05, 2023
No code enforcement in Calhoun County Florida
by: Mark Bozeman

We live in Blountstown, Florida and have a situation where the former building inspector gave temporary power to mobile homes without permits, allowed septic tanks without permits, and allowed outbuildings without permits after we built our home. This is made worse by the fact that it is also a flood plain and the codes are very strict. The county has allowed the land around our homestead to be divided into one acre tracts for these properties, which is a violation of the building codes for floodplain properties, i.e. no land in the floodplain can be divided or split and must remain undivided. Our building inspector, who is also the code enforcement officer and the floodplain manager, has told me the county will not enforce the many code violations. Two county commissioners said they will not help us. FEMA has been involved, but no action has been taken and this has devastating effects on our property value and our quality of life. Can anyone help?

Editors Respond: Unfortunately your situation is too complex for us to tackle from a distance on a website. It sounds as though you have to escalate your complaint to levels higher than the county. Try Florida offices concerned with floodplains, environmental quality, water quality, climate change, and contractor licensing. Also talk to your state representative and senator. Try to find someone at Apalachee Regional Planning Council who will be sympathetic; start by asking for whoever deals with environmental questions there. They will have no power, but they may have good suggestions about exactly how to approach this problem.

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