Code-enforcement policies ignore our rights
To the Editor:
Can Whitehall code-enforcement officers enter onto private property without the owner's permission or a warrant?
Your city officials say yes.
On July 19, city attorney Mike Shannon wrote that if "a property is posted with 'No Trespassing' signs, he has been instructed to obtain a search warrant before entering the property."
So without a "No Trespassing" sign, code-enforcement officers have the right to enter onto private property without permission or a warrant?
Council President Jim Graham on May 28 stated, "If he (code-enforcement officer) believes that there is a violation, he has the right to go and check."
The code states, "If such structure or premises is occupied, the code official shall present credentials to the occupant and request entry. ... If entry is refused, the code official shall have recourse to the remedies provided by law to secure entry."
The U.S. Supreme Court says you must have permission or obtain a search warrant.
On Aug. 28, I made a public-records request for copies of all search warrants "obtained by any city of Whitehall officials or employees in the past five years, the purpose of which was to gain legal access onto private property to inspect said property for violations of property maintenance, building or health codes."
I received back just one warrant, obtained by former animal-control officer Shope.
City leaders would have us believe they have obtained permission to step onto all properties they inspected. By their own admission, they have written at least 10,000 citations in the past five years. I can only wonder how many fines paid and/or prosecutions made against our citizens are tainted by evidence obtained illegally.
Jacquelyn K. Thompson