Neighbor harassment


Visitor Question: Our daughter lives in a house we own. She received a violation complaint about items on her porch. These items were buckets and so forth related to her job, and she complied.

The second complaint was for having a car without an inspection. The car is being restored, and regulations say one unlicensed vehicle is allowed.

The third complaint was for an abandoned house. The house has been occupied for the 15 years of my ownership.

The fourth complaint was for her cats in the neighbor's yard and garbage. She constructed a fence to keep cats on her property.

The fifth complaint was about cats that were dumped and my daughter had them fixed. The neighbor complained about these cats sleeping on her porch and using her yard as a litter box.

The neighbor's mother is the mayor. Garbage is repeatedly being spread by a bear too. Help.

Editors Reply: This is a classic example of two things: (1) a neighbor feud or vendetta of one neighbor against another that has just gotten out of hand, and (2) people with power, or access to power in this case, using their position to try to enforce their particular ideas about how to live. For these reasons we decided to comment on this question.

About the only course of action that seems appropriate here is for you and your daughter to try to find an advocate somewhere else in city hall. You don't comment on the size of your town or city, but if there are elected city council people, find the one that represents this location and carefully explain the situation to that person. Ask for help in obtaining fair treatment.

If there is no city council, perhaps there is a staff member such as a city engineer or building inspector who could look into the situation and try to convince the mayor to moderate her position.

Or there may be a city attorney who helps the city on a regular or occasional basis. This person should be quite interested in how the ordinances on the books are being enforced.

There may be other legal remedies, but we are just trying to suggest what might be possible just working with the politics of the situation.

Whoever you find to listen to your plight, you might start first with the third complaint, the one about an abandoned house. Perhaps the mayor or code official does not understand what constitutes an abandoned home, but that means no one is living there or taking care of it in any way. It does not mean that someone doesn't like the habits or tidiness of the way someone lives.

A city attorney or any other city official who can be unbiased enough to view these complaints objectively can see readily that the house has been occupied. If necessary, there will be utility bills to prove this point. Once gaining sympathy for the fact that this particular complaint is unjust, an official may be more willing to look at whether the other complaints are justified or in fact just constitute harassment, as your title suggests.

One other point is that if everyone in your town is afraid of the mayor and no one will take up your cause, you might try talking to your county government to see if someone there can be your advocate. That is probably a long shot, but then public officials that act vindictive in the way your mayor is acting often will make some other enemies in the public sector as well.

Lastly, we would go against our own frequent advice if we didn't tell you that you yourself should be trying to meet with the mayor to go over these complaints. Don't become personal and insult the mayor's daughter; in fact, you might pretend like you don't even know that the person doing the complaining is related to the mayor. That relationship could and should be irrelevant to code enforcement. If you succeed in securing a meeting, try to find out what the mayor's real problem with your daughter is; sometimes it is more about a boyfriend, taste in music, style of vehicle, or some other issue, and people fight back in obtuse ways instead of expressing why they really are angry. If you keep your cool, a meeting with the mayor can't hurt and may help.

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