Judge upholds ruling for city that fined an elderly man $30K for uncut grass while taking care of dying relative

DUNEDIN, FL – According to reports, the city of Dunedin’s Code Enforcement Board moved to foreclose the home of 69-year-old Jim Ficken, after he failed to pay nearly $30,000 in code violation fines that he accrued back in 2018. 

Ficken admitted that he let his grass grow too long, but he does not think he should lose his home over it. The city reportedly fined Ficken $500 per day over summer 2018 because he grass grew longer than 10 inches.

Ficken’s first “violation” came when he left Florida to care for his dying mother in South Carolina. Following the death of his mother, Ficken arranged to have a man cut his law, but the man died while Ficken was in South Carolina attending to his mother’s estate.

The same day that the city moved to foreclose, Ficken had filed a lawsuit against Dunedin and members of its Code of Enforcement Board. Ficken held a news conference in front of his home at 1341 Lady Marion Lane to announce the filing of the lawsuit.

He said:

“It’s an excessive fine and everyone I’ve spoken to says it’s outrageous.”

Ficken is a retiree and lives on a fixed income. While in South Carolina, he had no idea he was racking up the fines until he returned home. A city inspector walked past his house and notified him he’d soon be receiving a “big bill from the city.” Ficken purchased a lawnmower and cut his grass.

In his lawsuit, Ficken is represented by the Institute for Justice (IJ), who argued the fines imposted against him were not valid because they were excessive and the city did not notify him.

IJ attorney Andrew Ward said in a statement:

“The Constitution protects against fines that are excessive or ‘grossly disproportional’ to an offense.”

However, the district court recently rejected those claims and a federal judge upheld the $30,000 fines against Ficken. Officials with the IJ described the decision as “outrageous” and a blow to property rights.

Ward said:

“If $30,000 for tall grass in Florida is not excessive, it is hard to imagine what is. Yesterday’s ruling is wrong on the law and we will be appealing. This ruling emboldens code enforcement departments across the state to impose crippling financial penalties and it empowers them to do so without first notifying a property owner that they are potentially going to be fined.”

Dunedin mayor, Julie Ward Bujalski defended the Code Enforcement Board, stating it is a citizen-driven body that reacts to complaints from other Dunedin residents. Ficken’s property was the subject of complaints from his neighbors, so the board took action.

According to Ficken’s lawsuit, he routinely spent weeks at a time away from his property to aid his dying mother in South Carolina. In 2015, while Ficken was in South Carolina, Dunedin cited him for having grass that was too tall.

According to code enforcement policy, any subsequent violation of a city code in the next five years would make Ficken a repeat offender, which, reportedly, was the reason the fines were so hefty per day.

Between his two fines, Ficked owed Dunedin $29,833.50 on a house with a $125,541 market value, according to the Pinellas County Property Appraiser. Lead attorney Ari Bargil said rhat IJ agreed to take on Ficken’s case pro bono.

Bargil said in a statement at the new conference:

“Nobody should lose their house for having tall grass.”

Dunedin has cracked down on code violations in recent years. According to an analysis in Ficken’s lawsuit, the city collected almost $1.3 million in code enforcement violations in 2018, which was up from $34,000 in 2017. 

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It begins: New Yorker files lawsuit, wants to marry their own adult child

April 15th, 2021

MANHATTAN, NY– A New York parent who wants to reportedly marry their own adult child is suing to overturn laws barring the incestuous practice, calling it a matter of “individual autonomy.”

According to court documents, the parent is seeking to remain anonymous because their request is an “action that a large segment of society views as morally, socially, and biologically repugnant.”

In the Manhattan federal court claim filed on April 1st, the parent argued:

“Through the enduring bond of marriage, two persons, whatever relationship they might otherwise have with one another, can find a greater level of expression, intimacy and spirituality.”

The legal paperwork does not identify who the would-be newlyweds are, failing to identify their gender, ages, hometowns, or the nature of their relationship. The filing states:

“The proposed spouses are adults. The proposed spouses are biological parent and child. The proposed spouses are unable to procreate together.”

According to New York law, incest is a third-degree felony with a penalty of up to four years in prison. Incestuous marriages are also considered void and spouses are punished with a fine and up to six months in jail. 

A person is guilty of incest in the third degree when he or she marries or engages in sexual intercourse, oral sexual conduct or anal sexual conduct with a person they are knowingly related to such as an ancestor, descendant, brother or sister of either the whole or the half blood, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece.

The City Clerk’s Office explains that marriage licenses in the five boroughs require potential spouses to list their birth parents and attest there are “no legal impediments to the marriage.”

In 2014, a state appeals court unanimously approved a case involving a woman married to her mother’s half-brother, noting the genetic relationship was the equivalent of first cousins. Even that ruling cited “the almost universal horror” with which a parent-child marriage is viewed. 

Reportedly, the parent in the recent case said that they want to propose to their child, but recognize the “emotional harm” the child could sustain if they got married while the current laws are in effect.

The parent wants to walk down the aisle in New York City and is now asking a judge to declare the current laws unconstitutional and unenforceable in their case. The suit states that they parent and child regard themselves as a “PAACNP” couple,  “Parent and Adult Child Non-Procreationable” couple. The suit also states:

“Parent-and-adult-child couples for whom procreation is either virtually or literally impossible can aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage and seek fulfillment in its highest meaning.”

The parent then claims that it would “diminish their humanity” if they were unable to tie the knot with the kid they conceived. The claimant also argues that the “enduring bond of marriage” would take the parent and child union to a “greater level of expressions, intimacy and spirituality.”

NYU Law Professor Sylvia Law said that there are known cases of parents who are separated from their children in infancy, only to reunite decades later and become romantic. She added:

“I don’t think there’s a big popular movement, but I do think as long as we’ve kept records, there have been cases. It’s an area where I think most people would say the government has a right to make the rules, even if they don’t apply to every situation.”

Manhattan family and matrimonial law attorney Eric Wrubel said:

“It’s never gonna fly. The closest you can come is Woody Allen and that wasn’t his daughter, it was an adopted child whom he never adopted and it still turns people’s stomachs.”

Police chief goes viral, gets arrested after accusations that he lead a triple life – marriages, girlfriends and more

January 28th, 2021

STINNETT, TX – The police chief for the Stinnett Police Department, who hosts 21 years of law enforcement experience, has reportedly been arrested not long after accusations of him engaging in extramarital affairs started going viral on Facebook.

Stinnett Chief of Police Jason Collier was initially reported as having been placed on administrative leave, per a press release from city manager Durk Downs.

Not long afterward, he was arrested and then resigned.

While a relatively small police department, this police station has been getting quite the internet traffic after a post accusing Chief Collier of living a “double/triple life” started going viral.

Chief Collier’s newfound troubles stemmed from a post on Facebook by Cecily Steinmetz from January 26th. This woman proclaimed that she and Chief Collier were romantically involved, but she had allegedly found out that the police chief was not only married but was also courting another woman.

The January 26th post reads as follows:

“Chief Jason Collier is living a double/triple life. I was his girlfriend until yesterday. He lied to me and presented me with fake annulment documents when I found out he was married.”

“I also found out about a 2nd girlfriend, Kristi, last night. He has lied to us, our children, and asked us both to marry him. He is a poor representative of your town.”

“He would also visit me in Amarillo when he was on shift. We just returned from vacation in Taos on Sunday – meanwhile, his other GF was told he was on work assignment in Portland, OR.”

As seen in the above shared post, Steinmetz shared photos of herself and someone who appears to be Chief Collier – accompanied by a screenshot post by the police chief from September of 2020 where he was celebrating the anniversary of him and his wife.

Now initially Steinmetz thought it was just her entangled in this alleged sordid affair, but after her post began to pick up momentum, she was reached out to by another woman named Kristi Shaffer who alleged to have also been entangled with Chief Collier around the same time that Steinmetz was involved with the police chief.

What makes this entanglement so controversial is that Chief Collier is reportedly not only married – but married with four children.

During the social media storm and incessant sharing of the viral post, other women have cropped up alleging that they too had been involved in some sort of romantic endeavor with Chief Collier.

The police chief would allegedly romance these purported extramarital counterparts with adorations and promises of eventually getting married to them.

It would only take one day after Steinmetz’s post went viral that the city of Stinnett would take action and place Chief Collier on administrative leave pending an investigation.

According to the press release from city manager Durk Downs, the following was written:

“The city of Stinnett is aware of the current situation surrounding the Chief of Police Jason Collier. The city is taking this seriously and will be looking into any violations of city policy.

Chief Jason Collier has been placed on administrative leave while the city investigates possible violations of city employment policy. As per city policy, we will refrain from commenting on any personal issues of personnel in a public form.”

It’s unclear whether an allegation of adultery would fall under any violation of a code of conduct or ethics within Stinnett (or any police station, at that) – and while immoral, adultery isn’t illegal in the state of Texas.

There was allegedly a marriage annulment certificate that Steinmetz claimed was shared by Chief Collier with her when she initially found out about his wife, which Steinmetz further alleged was verified as being a false/doctored certificate.

If said accusation turns out to be true regarding the phony document, then there most certainly would be something within the code of conduct/ethics within the police department that could have lead to termination of Chief Collier – and even possible legal ramifications down the road under Texas’ forgery laws as well.

And that seems to be the case with Collier’s recent arrest. On January 28th, Texas Rangers arrested Collier under charges of tampering with a government record with the intent to defraud or harm. 

Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Cindy Barkley just so happened to point to the marriage annulment aspect of the recent scandal:

“The document was a fraudulent marriage annulment.”

Bail was set for Collier at $100,000.

Whatever the outcome of this debacle may result in, at the very least it should serve as a warning to would-be Casanovas donning the uniform while having the spouse and kids at home.

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Author: Jenna Curren

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