On Kilter: Not Dunn with the city

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OPINION This week an article in NY Criminal Defense reported that a Pennsylvania judge would be serving a 28-year prison sentence for essentially running a bogus court that placed people in privately-funded prisons for profit. (See Ed. Note)

You read that right.

If you have been keeping abreast of news and politics here in St. George, this story might evoke recollection of an ongoing matter that bears some similarities.

I am of course referring to the code enforcement court of the City of St. George and the pending lawsuit being brought against them for egregious Fourth and 14th Amendment violations by the code enforcement officers.

City officials are maintaining they have done nothing wrong and are simply enforcing the codes adopted by the City Council and enforced by the court.

Former City Council candidate Tara Dunn, now a plaintiff in the lawsuit, would disagree.

While the city maintains that the code enforcement court held at the city hall is the place where citizens cited by the city can plead their case, Dunn maintains that her experience was quite contrary.

Having herself been cited for a violation, when she appeared before Brian Filter, an administrative judge over the code court, to present her facts, she said she was told she was not attending a fact-finding hearing. Rather, she was present to learn what her fine was and that was it.

And she is not alone.

Just ask any one of the people who are contacting Bryan Hyde after his opinion piece on code enforcement last week to share their stories.

Just ask Jake Rowley, the main plaintiff in the case against the city.

Suffice it to say, this is far from much ado about nothing.

To those who would assert that it is, that perhaps Dunn is merely disgruntled for having not won a seat on the City Council, an apt response may be to take an objective look at her case.

It stands to reason, her case at least merited the attention of Aaron Prisbrey, the attorney who has taken on the case and likely would have taken it four years ago when it first happened.

But Dunn, on the heels of being treated unjustly by the city, opted to do something proactive. She ran for office on the platform of identifying with those who feel disenfranchised by the city – both in the code enforcement arena and others.

After two near-successful attempts to be elected and after being passed over for an appointment, rather than surrender the case, Dunn took it up in a manner befitting a person who will not be silenced.

But at the heart of the code enforcement debacle really lies a simple standoff.

Either the court itself is operating justly under a legal mandate and is therefore innocent of the allegations with which it is charged, and is in point of fact doing its job, or it is not.

If it is not, the court is subjecting citizens to illegal searches and aberrations of due process that could and perhaps should warrant sentences similar to the one the judge from Pennsylvania received.

You read that right.

If it is brought to light that the city, the courts, and any agents thereof knowingly were violating citizens rights’ and profiting from it, there should be prison time.

Would it be any different for you or me?

And as a small but poignant side note, chipping away at the credibility of the city from the outset of this battle is St. George City Councilman Gil Almqusit’s blatant abuse of the codes he and the city mandate.

Almquist was found to be operating a business from a rental property and had been doing so for years. He received no citation or fine. He did not appear before the code enforcement court. He simply, if even temporarily so, ceased the illegal behavior.

That the city would let this pass with little fanfare and no accountability for Almquist is painfully indicative of their mindset and reveals more perhaps than they would like about the true agenda of code enforcement.

It would appear that those like Dunn, who claim it is selective in its abuse, may very well have a point. Suffice it to say, this will be an historic legal battle in the city that’s outcome will affect us all.

See you out there.

Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Ed. Note: Link to article regarding Pennsylvania judge updated, as previous link was to a site that is no longer in operation.

Related posts:

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @dallashyland

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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23 Comments

  • Both sides February 23, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Tara was unjustly treated by the city? Have you heard the other side of the story? Maybe investigate both sides first. I heard she summoned help from the city to help with a drainage problem along side her property. She became disgruntled because things weren’t going her way. Further investigation revealed that she had built her yard out onto city property with a high wall. No permit, engineered plans or inspection on wall. No permission to encroach on city property either. Her own actions brought attention to this situation. Not what I would call be treated “unjustly” by the city. The amazing part about this is that she almost got elected by making up a hardship story on herself. Revealing both sides of a story would be very, very helpful sometimes.

    • Quick Deed February 23, 2014 at 11:52 am

      But when a city council member encroaches onto city property, he gets a quick deed to the property? If that is true, remember, that is public property, your property, that the city gave away. You’re good with the city giving away your public property to someone?

    • Craig February 23, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      “I heard she summoned help from the city to help …”
      You heard? What…second hand, third hand, friend of a friend told you?
      Please,back it up with facts. I’m call you out the way you’re calling Dallas out.

  • Judy Williams February 23, 2014 at 9:31 am

    I agree. The “good ole boy” mentality is alive & well in SG government. As always.

  • Silent Majority February 23, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    I want to make a few observations that I see consistently with those who support Mr. Hyland’s views (and Tara’s, Mr. Prisbrey). The “good ole boy” or what I like to call the conservative mentality is what has made this city the wonderful place it is to live. I like the fact that the city holds people accountable for their actions. I bet all of you would be just as bugged if you had a neighbor with junk all over their yard causing your property values to decrease. Much of this “illegal” rhetoric is just that. A bunch of accusations against the city, Mr. Filter, and the code enforcement that are completely unsupported by facts. Mr. Prisbrey is obviously just like many other “ambulance chasers.” Doing whatever he thinks will bring him the most money in his pocket. You all can rant on this second rate media blog all you want but in the end you will all be disappointed when lawsuits are dismissed and common sense prevails. Great job Brian Filter, Code Enforcement, and the City of St. George!

    • Bender February 23, 2014 at 8:32 pm

      So no room for improvement? Things are fine just the way they are? Don’t rock the boat. The old ways is the good ways. What time is Matlock on? GET OFF MY LAWN!
      .
      That’s the “conservative mentality”.

    • AMBULANCE CHASER February 23, 2014 at 9:58 pm

      Silent Majority, you got a name, or are you a blogger hanging out in your underpants in your parent’s basement. You make an inane reference to Richard Nixon’s “silent majority” and toss in the “conservative mentality” and “ambulance chaser” and now you are apparently the “silent authority” we should heed. You have no idea what true conservatism is. So why don’t you come out from your hiding place so the true conservatives, side by side with the undersigned ambulance chasing attorney, can kick your sorry backside when Brian Filter, Code Enforcement, and the City of St. George go down hard for their illegal laws, illegal enforcement, and illegal court? So what do you say big boy, are you up to the challenge, or are you going hide like the gutless weasel you truly are? AARON PRISBREY

      • Propaganda February 24, 2014 at 8:39 am

        Your city government is on par with the authoritarian control governments of Iran, North Korea, Libya, Iraq, Cuba, Afghanistan. The people in those countries who know nothing other than their controlling governments which persecute anyone who dare speak out against the rulers probably think their countries and governments are great. The same with St George, people who are used to generations of its authoritarian government do not know what a real democratic government is. You probably are afraid of actually being able to speak your mind and stand up for others’ rights without fear of reprisal from your authoritarian government, just like in N. Korea, Iran, Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan, Uganda, Libya…

      • Bender February 24, 2014 at 9:07 am

        Today I learned Aaron Prisbrey is a thin-skinned blowhard. Your cause may have merit councilor, but you look loonier to me every time I read about you in the news. Were I in Mr. Filter’s, or Shawn Guzman’s, shoes a print out of the above post would be on its way to the Utah State Bar’s Office of Professional Conduct.

  • Bub February 23, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Interesting

  • Bob February 23, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    People would do themselves by becoming informed on their city public servants. Many of them jump on the hate Obama bandwagon for no reason other than thinking they are supposed to. While they can give many misinformed reasons why they hate Obama, they are equally misinformed about their own city and state governments. Yet they support their local government despite their ignorance of it.

  • Annie February 23, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    I know for a fact that Almquist feels rules and laws do not apply to him. I would say people who continually vote him in have never had any kind of a run in with him and his holier than thou attitude.

  • Concerned February 23, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    I think she should be subject to fines for doing something against code. So should Almquist. So should anyone else. Everytime I hear about this woman, I imagine her with her little crystal ball saying “I’ll get you my pretty!!” ..looking at the city of Saint George. Her little monkey that owns that magazine company should be reviewed in the code court as well, everyone is guilty of something!

  • Bob February 23, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    What do you think about someone operating a nursery in an area zoned as residential and without a commercial license? What about a property inside city limits that has the appearance of a junk yard, purely in violation of city codes. Address these concerns to your council members, just not the one who may own them.

  • vet February 23, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    As a veteran who spent almost half his life serving this country and who has paid federal government government taxes for over 40 years, it is my given right to live where I choose. Having fought in two wars, it is my obligation to speak out against oppression and tyranny. Despite being in the United States, there is tyranny and oppression here that rivals any dictatorship country.

    • Bender February 23, 2014 at 8:27 pm

      “As a veteran who spent almost half his life serving this country and who has paid federal government government taxes for over 40 years, it is my given right to live where I choose.”
      .
      I’m not aware of any additional rights veterans acquire because they chose a career in the military over any other noble, or not noble, profession. Am I misunderstanding you?

      • VET February 24, 2014 at 8:34 am

        I’m not aware of any additional rights mormons acquire just because they choose to be mormons. Am I misunderstanding the mormon mindset?

        • Bender February 24, 2014 at 9:13 am

          I dunno; who mentioned Mormons? You’re claiming additional rights as a vet — just wondering if you could explain further. Is this something secret that only vets know about, because it’s news to me?

  • enufsaid February 24, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Code enforcement is just another form of revenue for the city where does the money from the fines go to is my question

    • Bender February 24, 2014 at 9:49 am

      I’m guessing the revenue funds the code enforcement.

  • The End February 24, 2014 at 9:14 am

    This is a typical opinion piece that is on STGNEWS. One sided, third party with little if any first person fact. I have noticed all the opinion pieces are “I have a friend”. Also I think the judge did rule that St George did overstep their authority. I think most people are missing the point of why code enforcement exists. It’s not revenue it is to keep the city from looking like [email protected]!+.

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