Petition calls for resignation of code enforcement specialist

— Dave Manley hasn't gotten anywhere with city officials with his argument that the city nuisance ordinance is unjust, now he is taking his cause to the public. On Monday, Manley began circulating a petition calling for the termination of city Code Enforcement Specialist Rex Splitt.

Manley appeared before the Craig City Council on two occasions protesting the nuisance ordinance passed with some contention in April. Manley has been cited for two violations of the city code including keeping junk on his property after being issued a notice and for keeping three junk vehicles on his property after being advised he was violating city ordinance. The case has been continued several times and is scheduled to be heard Sept. 1 in municipal court.

Manley is standing by his right to do what he wants with his own property and plans to fight the citation. Manley has hired Ralph Cantafio, an attorney with the firm Cantafio and Hardy-Moore with offices in Craig and Steamboat Springs.

"Dave has property on 12th Street which he as owned for a number of years and has maintained it at its current status for the entire time," Cantafio said. "Dave feels the ordinance is not consistent with what the community wants."

The petition is not legally binding in any way, Cantafio said, it will just serve to show council members what the community thinks.

"There isn't anyone in Craig that really likes they guy," Manley said. "He thinks he has the right to trespass. The citizens of Craig don't need a guy like Rex Splitt working for them, it's going to cause a lawsuit."

According to Splitt, he followed the ordinance, including the procedure of notification and citation process.

Manley said Splitt has been cordial with him during the entire process, he just doesn't like the fact the city has a code enforcement officer.

"He gets to use his opinion about what's junk and what's not junk and my cars are not junk," Manley said. "I have nothing against Rex Splitt, it's just his ideas I disagree with."

According to city ordinance, any parked vehicle that does not have current registration is considered a junk vehicle.

In one statement to the City Council, Manley said he didn't have a problem with the ordinance when it was passed, but does now that it impacts him.

Manley said his neighborhood has been kept the same way the entire time he has lived there, in fact, he said people move there because of that. He believes the community should have a say on what junk is and said his neighbors don't have any problem with the condition of his yard.

"Why should the neighborhood change their way of living just because one guy across town says so," Manley said.

"It's not a high traffic area," Cantafio said. "It doesn't bother the neighbors. Dave believes that Splitt's job is really in contravention with what the people in the community feel."

Manley is taking this first step to gauge public reaction. If they get many signatures on the petition, they will present it to the City Council. After that, they will decide if they want to start a citizen initiative to repeal the ordinance which Cantafio said could be in violation to the Fourth Amendment.

"After a period of time, and if you don't let the officer come in, then they can come in according to the ordinance," Cantafio said.

The way the ordinance was originally drafted, a city officials only had give notice of an intended inspection and then could inspect the property whether the owner was on site or gave permission. The ordinance has since been changed to outline the process of obtaining a court order to inspect the premises if the owner is unavailable or refuses an inspection.

According to City Attorney Sherman Romney, the ordinance can be repealed if 20 percent of those who voted in the last election sign a petition. Twenty percent of the 1,633 voters in the last city election equals 327 signatures.

Manley said he knows three or four people who will help him to circulate the petition. He plans for the process to take approximately 30 days of going door-to-door in Craig. He and C antafio have no goal as to the number of signatures they wish to obtain, but say when they do make a presentation to the City Council, it will be with the backing of the residents.

"I really don't pretend the City Council is going to drop everything and give us an ear," Cantafio said.

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