Elgin suspends ordinance officer

By Trish Yerges, Observer Correspondent September 24, 2012 02:55 pm

 

By Trish Yerges
Observer Correspondent

The Elgin City Council has suspended Ordinance Officer Mike Little pending an investigation by the city safety committee into complaints made by residents about how he carries out his duties. 

Little was hired by the council and began performing his duties July 1. Those duties include enforcing city ordinances that are excluded in the city’s contract for law enforcement with the Union County Sheriff’s Department. Little was officially sworn in as ordinance officer on Aug. 14.

Last Tuesday the council heard complaints from three city residents about their experiences with the ordinance officer. One resident questioned the council about Little’s rights and whether he was allowed to come onto her property and walk around the yard to inspect it for possible ordinance infractions.

Councilor Allan Duffy explained that the ordinance officer has certain rights that enable him to carry out his duties. He has the right to come onto the property and knock on the homeowner’s door but he’s not supposed to walk around the yard to inspect. Even if a householder posts a “No Trespassing” sign, Duffy said the ordinance officer has the right to come onto the property and knock on the front door to make contact with the homeowner.

 

Another resident, Roseann McLean, said she felt threatened and intimidated by Little, who had contacted her about her two trailers and a jeep. 

Resident Toni Olson said Little’s enforcement was not applied consistently to every property. She gave as an example weeds across the street from City Hall, but Mayor Stover informed her that property was owned by the county and out of the city’s jurisdiction.

Duffy told the residents at the council meeting that the city has received “a long list of complaints” and that “there are serious problems all around.”

Duffy said that he thought Little was initially asked to stick to certain items within the ordinances such as weed abatement and cat and dog issues and to leave the other ordinances alone for the time being. He said that the council wanted to look over the other ordinances again to see if any of them needed to be corrected before Little enforced them.

Councilors Duffy and Dick Miller make up the safety committee and had scheduled a meeting with Little to address the issues raised by Elgin citizens. However, Duffy said that Little canceled the meeting. Consequently, Duffy said he did not have an opportunity to talk to him before the council meeting last Tuesday. Little was not present at the meeting.

“I was afraid this is where we were going to head and where we’ve gone,” said Duffy. 

Duffy anticipated problems hiring an ordinance officer when there is no city chief of police to supervise his performance. As it stands, the ordinance officer is accountable to the safety committee, yet “he has failed to meet with Allan and me,” said Miller.

Mayor Stover assured the residents last Tuesday that “our public safety committee will check into this.” 

For now, the ordinance officer has been suspended until further discussion can be had on the matter, Duffy said. The motion to suspend was made by Duffy and passed with Mayor Stover and Brent Linville opposing; councilor Sannar was not present.

The safety committee will try again to meet with Little to discuss these issues and will give a report at the next council meeting.