Craig resident Dave Manley has wanted Code Enforcement Specialist Rex Splitt to be terminated and now he believes he has the ammunition to do it.
For the past two months, Manley has gone door-to-door in an effort to collect enough signatures to convince the Craig City Council to oust Splitt. He has collected 418 signatures enough, he said, to put the issue on a ballot if need be. He plans to turn the petition into City Hall within the next few days.
"I expected more signatures," he said, "I can get more, I just don't have the time."
Manley's argument is the city nuisance ordinance is unjust and does not reflect the needs of a majority of residents. He also contends that Splitt uses intimidation, harassment and trespassing to enforce the ordinance.
Manley has appeared before City Council twice protesting a controversial nuisance ordinance passed in April. After that, he was cited for two violations of the city code, including keeping junk on his property after being issued a notice and keeping three junk vehicles on his property after being advised he was violating city ordinance. The case has been continued several times and is awaiting argument on a motion to suppress filed by Manley's attorney.
It is Manley's argument that, as a property owner, he has the right to do what he will with the land he owns. He has owned property on 12th Street for many years and argues he has kept it in the same state the entire time.
Manley said he covered only a small portion of the town while circulating the petition.
"I hope (the council) listens to the people and get rid of him," Manley said.
Splitt chose not to comment until the case has been resolved in Municipal Court because he doesn't want to influence the decision, but did say he followed the ordinance in his dealings with Manley.
Manley plans to circulate two more petitions, one to change the nuisance ordinance and to do away with portions of the city parking and landscaping ordinance. Both, he said, are not in compliance with what the public wants.
The city nuisance ordinance defines what items and property conditions are considered garbage or nuisances and gives a city representative the tools to enforce the ordinance. Manley argues violations of the ordinance should only be noted on a complaint basis. He said the people who live in his neighborhood have the same standard of living and none have made a complaint against him.
"I'd like to see the power taken out of one person's hands," Manley said.
He would also like to see an amendment to a portion of the city parking and landscaping ordinance that requires 25 percent of new business property be landscaped.
"It's just another way of telling property owners what they can and can not do with their property," he said. "People don't want that."
Manley said if the city ignores his petition, he will file a class action lawsuit and has been promised financial backing from several people if he needs to proceed.
According to Manley's attorney, Ralph Cantafio of Cantafio and Hardy-Moore in Craig and Steamboat Springs, the petition is not legally binding in any way and does not force the Council to take any action, but it does serve to show community opinion.
According to City Attorney Sherman Romney, the city must hold an election to repeal an ordinance 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 is 327 signatures.
The petition Manley has circulated does not force the City Council to declare an election because the petition was circulated for the termination of Splitt and for no other reason. If Manley wants to see the ordinance changed, he will have to circulate another petition.
The City Council also has the option of changing the ordinance through a process outlined in the city charter which includes a public hearing.