Nuisance ordinance changes approved
The question of whether a safety inspection of a residence could constitute an illegal search was discussed and one provision was removed during consideration of the third reading of nuisance code amendments during the Washington City Council meeting Wednesday evening.
As the council began final consideration of the draft, city administrator Brent Hinson said that a section had been added regarding inspections authorized by the city. Council member Bob Shepherd said that this was a major change and that he wanted to discuss it before voting.
“The only reason it wasn’t in previously is that I didn’t get this information until a week and a half ago,” Hinson said.
He said attorney Barb Edmondson, who has been working with the city on drug prosecution cases, had sent him some items to consider. Mayor Sandra Johnson said that the new part of the ordinance should have been specified to council members.
The ordinance authorizes city workers to enter for inspection at the request of the owner or tenant, with the consent of the owner, upon issuance of a warrant issued by a magistrate or judge, or at the request of a law enforcement officer who is lawfully on the premises.
Shepherd said that he had a question about inspections at the request of a law enforcement officer. Johnson gave the example of a law enforcement officer being at a residence for a domestic dispute at the request of the owner and calling the city inspector while on scene.
“That maybe is a step past where it needs to go,” he said.
Council member Merle Hagie said that he didn’t see a problem with it. Hinson said it is for instances where an officer wants the opinion of a building inspector. He also said that he didn’t believe removing the provision would hurt the ordinance.
“I just can’t imagine a law enforcement officer asking willy-nilly for an inspection or no reason,” Hagie said. “I see nothing wrong with it.”
Council member Bob Shellmyer said that he read the new provisions and thought it would be a good thing for the owners and the residents. He recommended the council ask Edmondson why she had included the provision if council members weren’t comfortable with it.
Shepherd asked city attorney Craig Arbuckle for his opinion. Arbuckle said Shepherd was “not off base.” Shepherd said he was concerned if the Washington Police Department got a directive to go to all the houses on a block and if anyone let them in, to call for an inspection.
“Your description is kind of Gestapoish, isn’t it?” Shellmyer asked.
“Yes, and that is what I am concerned about,” Shepherd said.
The council approved removing the provision with a 3-2 vote, with Hagie and council member Fred Stark voting against removing the provision.
The council also approved amending the wording to require inspectors to inform building owners that they had the right to refuse entry. Council member Mark Kendall made the motion.
In other business, the council:
• approved a site plan for Liqui Grow;
• approved the fall 2013 land application of bio-solids bid at 1.8 cents per gallon; and
• approved a resolution naming city personnel with access to financial accounts.