6.28.2008

TS Task force takes steps toward compiling final report

Task force takes steps toward compiling final report

EUREKA -- The Humboldt County Code Enforcement Task Force has taken the first steps toward compiling a report to the board of supervisors, but it may not be done until late September.

The members voted unanimously Friday to ask the board to extend of the task force and the moratorium on inspection warrants until Sept. 26.

The extension will allow more time to arrange a session with Humboldt County District Attorney Paul Gallegos. Gallegos, as part of the Code Enforcement Unit Oversight Committee, had been invited to appear before the task force at Friday's meeting, but was not present.

Second District Supervisor Johanna Rodoni suggested -- and the balance of the task force agreed -- that a second, strong invitation be issued to the district attorney.

”I think we need to emphasize they're a critical piece of this,” she said.

Part of that urgency deals with which county department will house the code enforcement unit and the district attorney's concerns over granting police powers to Code Enforcement Unit officers.

The task force scheduled its next meeting for the afternoon of July 9 from 1:30 to 4 p.m. to better accommodate Gallegos' schedule.

Meanwhile each of the members will begin the process of drafting findings and recommendations for the final report, a process that is likely to continue through several sessions. And there's more information to gather.

Liz Davidson, one of three Civil Liberties Monitoring Project presentatives on the task force, expressed a desire to converse with Sheriff Gary Philp, Community Development Services Director Kirk Girard and the district attorney.

”I see the need for at least one more meeting for information gathering,” she said.

The task force agreed earlier to devote one of its sessions to review of the code enforcement manual.

However, the information gathering proceeded Friday with 1st District Supervisor Jimmy Smith's testimony on his attendance at Code Enforcement Unit Oversight Committee meetings. The committee is comprised of County Counsel representatives, supervisors John Woolley and Smith, the sheriff and the chief building representative.

Smith said his primary reason for attending these meetings was to track projects within the 1st District. But the supervisor wasn't able to shed light on inspection warrant-related questions that have emerged at most of the task force's sessions, including what triggers a warrant that allows inspection without advance notice and what role does the Code Enforcement Unit Oversight Committee play in that determination?

”None, that I know of,” Smith said.

The challenge, 5th District Supervisor Jill Geist reiterated, has been ascertaining who determines what necessitates an inspection warrant. As of yet, that question remains unanswered.

But, Smith did recount his own experiences making numerous visits to sites with problems in his district including one that offered a glimpse of the potential danger CEU officers may face. He had been keeping tabs on a health and safety violation in the Pine Hill area -- essentially garbage accumulation -- on his way home. One day, one of the residents repeatedly used his hand to simulate gunfire in Smith's direction.

Despite such occasional animosity, the CEU has been remarkably successfully in their efforts despite a small staff, Smith said.
”Without the Code Enforcement Unit,” he said, “I think we'd be in a lot more trouble.”

Jessie Faulkner/The Times-Standard
Article Launched: 06/28/2008 01:15:38 AM PDT