He said that he received no warning letters or phone calls, only a certified letter containing copies of eight tickets for codes violations and a notice to appear in court.
But Anderson told councilors she sent Sellers a letter giving him 30 days to clean up the property.
She also said when Sellers didn’t comply, she did what City Attorney Andy Wright told her to do and cited him every day for four days.
When he still didn’t comply or even respond, she sent the certified letter and handed the matter over to Wright who took it to civil court.
There, based on pictures and documentation in the letter and citations, Judge James Flood decided to put Sellers on probation for six months, even though Sellers was not present for the hearing.
However, Ward 1 Councilor Alex Buhler, who led the discussion of the codes citations issues in council, said during an interview Thursday, “I may have used a poor choice of words, but I didn’t intend to insinuate anything. I only wanted to have some questions answered.”
He also noted that asking questions and responding to citizen’s issues is what the council is supposed to do.
Huddleston also said he thinks that two different issues are involved.
“This is not about revitalization. It is a separate issue,” he said. “The real question is why was this man cited four days in a row if others are not being treated the same way.”He added that he thinks giving someone a citation for the same violation every day is doing too much. He also said he became involved because “these two gentlemen live in my area.”
He then added that as he said in the council meeting he thinks the neighborhoods in his ward have vastly improved during the past several months and that he gives Anderson and the Codes Department credit for that improvement.
In fact, Anderson’s letter recommends Huddleston to chair the committee.
“Councilman Huddleston has been a very active part of the Task Force and as a part of this community/ward has the best interest for the citizens in it and can step into this chair position and keep the Hope and Opportunity for this ‘Target Area of Revitalization’ moving forward,” she wrote.
Mayoral candidate and NRT member Phillip Craighead said while he appreciates what Anderson has done as part of the committee he would also support Huddleston. “I know Kevin has a real concern for that area and his heart is for that, so I’ll continue to support him,” Craighead said.
He also said if he is elected mayor he would deal with personnel issues the same way he does with his employees now.
“If there’s an issue, I go to them in private and work it out,” he said. “This has happened quite a bit, and I think we need to treat city employees with respect. We don’t need to flog people in public.”
His opponent in the mayoral race and Ward 3 Councilor William Farmer agreed. “The mayor should have investigated this issue. The council members are not supposed to go to Codes and ask what they are doing.”
Anderson said, however, she did not feel she could do her job as Codes administrator effectively while under fire from the council, which she said seemed to her to side with citizens against the enforcement of their own ordinances.
She also noted that the information Huddleston and Buhler had on coming before the rest of the council was incomplete.
“They didn’t even come into our office and check our files,” she said.
Farmer said that it wasn’t the right of a councilmember to go to employees and ask them what had been done.
But Farmer noted it is the councilor’s job to respond to citizen complaints and to ask questions.
“It’s what they should do,” he said. “It creates a very real problem if city council can’t ask questions.”
Fox responded to Anderson’s resignation from the NRT in the following letter: “Patsy, I apologize for the way you were treated last night. It was an uncalled for chastisement that was absolutely meritless. The Judge had all the evidence and made his ruling. The City Attorney was virtually ignored as he defended you, and I appreciated his speaking up even though he was ignored.”
He went on, “The council members publicly grilling you were second-guessing his and the judge’s decisions. Why didn’t they challenge him in court? It is my understanding that Buhler sat through the court proceedings.”
Anderson also added that Buhler was in court, so at least he knew what happened there, she added.
“I wonder why he didn’t question the judge then,” she said.
Buhler explained his actions in court by saying, “I have no right to challenge the judge. I’m not a lawyer. I’m a council member.”
Then he added that he thought Anderson should have asked the judge to wait to hear the case until she could tell Sellers that he needed to be present.
“He deserved his day in court,” Buhler said. “Both Miss Anderson and the mayor told him not to worry about appearing in court, they would take care of it. If that had been me, I wouldn’t have expected my name to come up in court at all after that.”
In an interview Thursday, Anderson also added that due to the dispute over whether property owners were receiving warning notices her department would be sending all notices by certified mail, even though that would added to the cost of postage.
Farmer said he agreed with that decision, but he wondered why the letters from Codes hadn’t been sent certified as a regular part of department procedure prior to the dispute.