Adding Insult To Injury.

(not the home in question but as we couldn’t find the applicable image, this is a standard image.)

In 1998, the City of New Orleans seized a townhome along I-10 after the owner, Charles Jett, failed to pay the taxes on the property. The City’s ownership was recorded in the City’s offices. In spite of being the owner of the property, the City started code enforcement proceedings against Jett (the previous owner) in 2012.

You read that right. The City was pursuing code enforcement penalties on a property they owned and from the person who was the previous owner.

Fast forward to 2015. Husband and wife David Garrett and Lourdes Archibold-Garrett purchased the property on October 2, 2015 from the City. They Garretts claim they were never told of any defects, problems or legal issues with the townhome.

Despite the townhome being sold to the Garretts, the City continued to pursue collection of code enforcement penalties against Jett. (The person who the City had seized the building from in 1998, and 14 years before the City started trying to collect for code violations from him on the building the City owned at the time.)

It is unclear whether Jett took part in the hearing, but on October 30, 2015 an administrative judge ordered Jett to pay the code enforcement fines of $12,000 and issued a warning that the building could be demolished in the future.

The Garretts were not part of the proceedings, and never notified of the judgement and lien that was placed on the property. Everything the City was doing was aimed at Jett, the pre-1998 owner.

On January 15, 2016, the Garretts’ realtor noticed there was a sign on the property saying the townhome would soon be demolished. The realtor contacted the Garretts who contacted the City.

The Garretts got the City to cancel the lien. Correspondence between the City and the Garretts shows the Garretts were looking to develop the property and would resolve all code enforcement issues. The City cancelled the lien on January 25, 2016.

What happened next is stunning.

On January 27, 2016, the City demolished the building. The Garretts were never notified of the pending demolition and in fact thought everything was fine.

Not surprisingly, the Garretts were not happy. On April 14, 2016, they filed a notice with the City of New Orleans seeking compensation for the demolition of the building.

The City responded not with an offer to repay the Garretts or to negotiate. The City added insult to injury and instead sent the Garretts a bill for the demolition.

You read that right. The City of New Orleans sent a bill for over $11,000 for the demolition of the building. The City’s bill did note that the Garretts of their “right to appeal the accuracy and reasonableness of these costs by appearing at a hearing.”

After the City’s failure to live up to anything they had done, the Garretts decided not to appeal to a hearing (which would incur more costs to them and most likely result in the City appointed hearing officer ruling for the City.)

On October 28, 2018, the Garretts filed a lawsuit against the City of New Orleans alleging denial of due process and compensation under the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Of course the City refused to admit and remedy their own errors and managed to get the District Court to dismiss the lawsuit because the Garretts had not first filed in State Court which the Court reasoned was “jurisdictionally unripe.”

The Garretts appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and on June 22, the Fifth Circuit agreed with the Garretts and send the case back to the lower Courts saying “fix this.”

One of the things that has really started to bother us is when governments use the weight of their positions and tax payer dollars to punish citizens for the government’s mistakes.

This case is a great example of that.

We cannot find one thing that the Garretts did wrong. They played by the very rules that City had set up and thought they had resolved everything.

Yet it was the City that originally sought to fine Jett for code violations on a property the City owned. It was on the City’s watch that the violations occurred. The City then played fast and loose with the ownership and notices to the Garretts on the pending demolition of the property they had purchased from the City. The Garretts followed up, got the City to agree to remove the lien on the building (which would have made plans for the pending demolition null and void) and yet the City still demolished the building – three months after telling the Garretts everything was fine.

Then when the Garretts told the City they messed up, the City billed them for the demolition. New Orleans billed the Garretts for the City’s mistake and negligence in what appears to be an act of retaliation for pointing out the City’s mistakes.

Of course, the other problem is going to be that when the Garretts win their case (and they should) the taxpayers will foot the bill for the lawyers fees as well as the cost of the building. It’s not as if New Orleans is swimming in money and has fully recovered from hurricane Katrina in 2005. There are still sections of the City that need help in the form of reconstruction, infrastructure and development.

The taxpayers will foot all the bills and we believe no one – and we mean no one – will be held accountable within the City government.

The lack of accountability and the taxpayers paying for governmental stupidity is all too common these days.

2 Responses to “Adding Insult To Injury.”

  1. Thomas Gaume says:

    This brings to mind a local issue that is just as egregious in my opinion.

    At US1 and Turkey creek is a mobile home retirement community (Palm Bay Estates). The community there has canals so that the residents have access to the waterway. One of these canals is the discharge point for Palm Bay’s stormwater utility. So most of the stormwater for the area is discharged into a canal that’s owned by the residents of the park.

    Each property in the park was assessed a stormwater fee in excess of $120 per unit and there are about 200 homes in the community ($24,000 minimum in stormwater assessment collected by the City).

    The stormwater that is discharged into the community canal is laden with sediment, and over the years has turned a navigable canal into a shallow useless canal that’s not usable by some of the residents. The sediment has actually created an island in the canal that is frequented by alligators and turtles to bask in the sun.

    Now the City refuses to dredge the canal, even though the stormwater utility created the problem and the residents pay the stormwater assessment. The city claims it is the communities responsibility. But the community don’t benefit from the stormwater utility, and by reason shouldn’t be paying a stormwater assessment, in fact they not only handle all of their own stormwater, but also the stormwater from the utility.

    Common sense would dictate that the city should actually be paying the community a stormwater fee, and the city should also dredge the canal since the city is responsible for the stormwater and sediment that have deposited in the canal.

    • AAfterwit says:

      Thomas Gaume,

      We know of two other cities that have the same issues with canals.

      What makes the problem even worse is that as the level of sediment rises, it slows the flow and exchange of the water within the canals themselves. That means the water becomes more stagnant causing even more issues.

      We have always wondered why a city or government is not held accountable when they don’t provide the services they promise. If a business said “pay us $X.XX and will do this….” and didn’t follow through, the business would be in huge trouble on many fronts. With the government, instead of living up to the deal with the citizens, they get to say, “yeah….well….give us more money….”

      A. Afterwit.