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Monday, January 07, 2008

ACLU challenges GESTAPO tactics

Please click onto the COMMENTS for the story.


Blogger Bob said...

ACLU complains about sump pump ordinance, and Vadnais Heights relents
Owners can't be fined for denying city access to homes, group says, and city relents
Pioneer Press
Article Last Updated: 01/06/2008 11:29:08 PM CST

Vadnais Heights officials have agreed to revamp a sump pump inspection program, after the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota said it was a violation of the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure. The ACLU-MN sent the city a letter late last month asking for changes in the inspection program, which is designed to stop basement sump pumps from flowing into sewage treatment lines. It was unclear late last week how the city might respond, but city officials now say they'll comply. Vadnais Heights resident Don Jorgenson, who contacted the ACLU-MN, received a letter Saturday from City Attorney Caroline Bell Beckman along with a refund check for $260. At the time the inspections ordinance was approved, "there was no indication that this might be improper," the letter, signed by Bell Beckman, states. "We will be advising the City Council on ways to make sure that the ordinance does not violate any legal requirements." Jorgenson said he knew when they passed the ordinance that he'd fight it when it was his turn for inspection - even though he doesn't have a sump pump. "I do understand the desire and the need to get the sump pumps out of the sewer system," Jorgenson said Friday. "But the way they're going about it is what I have a problem with." After learning of the inspection practices from Jorgenson, the ACLU-MN sent a letter to city officials, requesting that the ordinance be changed. Currently, if a property owner does not allow a city-hired inspector to check for an illegal sump pump connection, the city code allows a $200 fine to be assessed each quarter, or until the connection is remedied. That's intimidation and it violates the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU-MN. "There are two ways to make it right," he said. "One: to get a warrant. Two: to allow licensed plumbers to make those inspections and have them sign an affidavit saying that those sources are connected (legally)." Those are the changes he and Jorgenson hope to see in the revised ordinance. In a similar case last year, the city of Little Canada faced a lawsuit because a resident was charged a fee after denying access to inspectors. A settlement agreement cost the city's insurer $90,000. "We learned a tough lesson in that," Joel Hanson, city administrator for Little Canada, said. The city changed its code to clarify "that you cannot coerce or intimidate someone to gain access to the property," he said. The city also refunded all individuals who were charged. Vadnais Heights began the inspection program to avoid a threatened fine of $70,000 by the Metropolitan Council, which operates wastewater treatment plants servicing most of the Twin Cities. The sanitary sewer system is designed to handle only a certain amount of inflow. When it rains and sump pumps start chugging away, ridding basements of water, illegal connections can cause a spike, sending excess water into the system. The approved means of handling the excess water is to direct it back to the ground surface or into the storm sewer system, not the sanitary sewer system. In an effort to reduce the amount of freshwater going into the sanitary sewer system, the council identified 46 metro communities that were sources of excess water and gave each of them the option to pay a large fine or fix the problem. Fixing that problem is the city's responsibility, according to Kyle Colvin, a Metropolitan Council spokesman. Many have adopted ordinances allowing for city inspections, though Colvin said he was unsure how many have programs like that in Vadnais Heights. Vadnais Heights city officials said much of the surplus comes from illegal sump pump connections. The city checks about 1,500 properties in the city each year for illegal sump pump connections. This spring and summer, the city will check the final 1,500, City Administrator Gerry Urban said. Inspecting every property in the city is "no easy order," Urban said last week. "Is it something we want to do? No, not at all.'' Jorgenson is pleased with the city's quick response to the ACLU-MN's request. "I guess I'm glad to see that they're going to respect the citizens' constitutional rights," Jorgenson said Saturday. "Hopefully other cities will now get the word and anyone with a similar ordinance will change theirs."

6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets give a hand to the ACLU-MN.
for stepping in and stopping this GESTAPO treatment of the city code inspectors.
Thank you Bob for putting this up, maybe St.Paul will see that they are violating our right in St.Paul when they come and try to scare us into access to our homes.

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These warrantless inspections are similar to the new inspection rules we have in St. Paul. If you do not submit to their inspections then DSI or Fire pulls your Certificate of Occupancy and calls for full code compliance. If you complain, they come down harder on you. Trust me on the last part.

Currently, the City of St. Paul has spent over a $1 million in legal bills for defending itself against several lawsuits over unfair enforcement of city codes.

Thanks Kathy Lantry and Dave Thune for the Nazis coming into our homes. Our rights are being taken away one right after another and you are all sheep to allow this to happen.

It seems no one wants to get involved to stop this madness. So when they knock at your door don’t complain as you had an opportunity.

I say good for the ACLU. They are 100% correct in this case.

8:45 AM  
Anonymous henry said...

And where is the ACLU coming to the defense of the citizens of St. Paul?

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's give a hand to the Vadnais Heights city officials who have made a wrong, RIGHT!

Now if we could get the GESTAPO regime here in Saint Paul to follow suit. Fat chance with these lame brain fascist.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Hi All,

I need a landlord who wants a fight with the city.

My offer to rent an apartment that has an inspection coming up still stands. I will gracefully tell the inspectors to take their gestapo tactics down the road. NO inspection!

If they don't comply and chose to harass or harm myself or the property owner, I will institute the wrath of one of the biggest law firms in this country representing civil rights.

We will both collect some cash off of the stupidity of the government officials who instituted these ordinances.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...
i yr ago Lantry was notified: 4th Amend Lantry must resign for Constitutional Violations.... by ACLU
Bob I think you posted before here's search


ACLU of MN Challenges St. Paul Inspection Program
Submitted by Myron Medcalf, Star Tribune Staff Writer on Wed, 01/24/2007 - 9:57am.
Council President Kathy Lantry

St. Paul City Council

City Hall

Room 320-C

St. Paul, MN 55102


Dear Council President Lantry,

I am writing in regards to the proposed legislation outlining changes to the City Building Code and Inspection guidelines. The ACLU-MN recognizes the general need for rental housing inspections for the protection of renters throughout the city; however, we are concerned that current ordinances, and the proposed ordinance do not adequately ensure that inspections take place in conformity with the Fourth Amendment. The proposed process for inspections of single-family and duplex rental properties, and the current ordinance governing inspections of multi-family dwellings appear to violate the right against unreasonable searches and seizures, as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

The goal of proposed changes are to allow the fire marshal to enter one and two-dwelling rental units in order to assess whether they satisfy city safety regulations. The proposal does not require notice to tenants; nor does it require the consent of tenants or a procedure to obtain an administrative warrant based on probable cause when a tenant refuses consent.

The Fourth Amendment protects the privacy rights of residents in their homes. This privacy right extends to tenants who live in rental property. In Camara v. Municipal Court of the City and County of San Francisco, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that city inspections are "searches" for purposes of the Fourth Amendment. The Court went on to hold that such searches were permissible as long as they were done pursuant to the consent of the tenant, or the inspection was done pursuant to an administrative search warrant. Camara v. Municipal Court of the City and County of San Francisco, 387 U.S.523, 538, 87 S.Ct. 1727, 1736, 18 L.Ed.2d 930 (1967). Probable cause to justify an administrative search warrant must be assessed according to factors such the passage of time, the nature of the building, or the condition of the entire area.

Tenants in St. Paul should have the right to understand that the City is intruding upon their privacy and the reasons for the intrusion. The tenants of the rental properties need to be informed prior to the proposed inspection so that they can effectively exercise their rights under the Fourth Amendment. As it stands, the ordinance does not make it necessary to provide that notice to them, much less the opportunity to refuse entry absent an administrative warrant. It appears that the only provision regarding how inspections are carried out is a requirement that the inspection be conducted during reasonable hours of the day.

While we do not believe that it is the current practice of city inspectors to enter homes in violation of the Fourth Amendment, there does not appear to be anything in current ordinances or the proposed ordinance that would prohibit inspections absent consent or a warrant. While current practice may satisfy the Fourth Amendment, the City Council has the authority and an obligation to establish procedures and set parameters that bureaucrats must follow to conform their actions to the Fourth Amendment.

We applaud the City’s effort to advance the important goal of safety for its residents. We respectfully urge you to include provisions that will adequately protect the privacy and Fourth Amendment rights of those residents. Providing those necessary protections will not affect the ability of the City to could still pursue its goals while protecting the rights of its residents.

The ACLU-MN is available to assist with these issues should the need arise. While we cannot act as your attorney, we would be happy to provide you with our perspective and expertise in this area. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future.


Charles Samuelson

Executive Director

9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm curious Bob... The law firm you speak of... Is it Pacific Legal Fondation?

I remember attorneys from this firm posting here in the past.


A landlord considering your offer.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All you landlords out there listen up. There is going to be a flood of RICO lawsuits against the city in the next few months. If your rental business has been damaged by the city of St Paul, start getting your money together. When the lawsuits start getting filed you can contact the Attorneys filing them and get on board with the others to save money on the legal fees.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some individuals in St. Paul gambled and lost everything. They just didn't think it through very well. Now its a matter of going through all the fallout and details.

Copycats like Vadnais Heights are beginning to learn that it wasn
t a very good deal after all.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The trouble is that all the landlords that the city chased out of town sold their property to a bunch of greenhorns who knew nothing about managing rental property. When the first problem came around they knew not what to do.

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When an attorney views a case as a lawsuit with potential they do not charge their client upfront they take a percentage of the settlement.

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The nice thing about this is that at the end someone is going to be right and someone is going to wrong. What side do you think your going to be on Repke?

Everyone knows that the city goes after these landlords through the back door to get at the tenant behavior they cannot get at if they had to repsect the tenants constitutional rights.

This so sad, now they are going have to oay many many times what it would have cost to do it the right way where they couldn't have gotten sued.

Think of all the money that's going to get paid out Repke that could have been gpoing to non profits like your to actually help the neighborhood rather than plunge them further into poverty and despair.

9:04 PM  
Anonymous henry said...

Is there any response from the City as to the ACLU letter? Judging from the City's actions they have ignored everyone.

3:38 PM  

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