Jennings & Manker Feud Over Communication & Village Meeting Cancellations

By Benjamin Cox on May 15, 2020 at 5:46am

A South Jacksonville attorney is accusing the Village President of a lack of transparency and communication on a code enforcement issue. Attorney Tyson Manker has been held on retainer by a small number of South Jacksonville residents to look into a code enforcement issue on a derelict property in the village. Manker presented his findings and the outcomes to the village trustees Wednesday about the outcome.

Manker said he had viewed where the property had unruly amounts of trash and the surrounding homes had been dealing with infestations of cockroaches. Manker said that the landlord had put the blame on the tenant. Manker said the residents sought him out after entreaties to Village Hall had gone unanswered. “The first thing that I did was contact the Code Enforcement Officer Bre Smith. She was very helpful. I want to definitely thank her. It was apparent that she was doing everything in her power at the time to address the issue. After I spoke with her one month ago today on April 13th, I emailed Mr. Jennings, Police Chief Mann, and all of the board. You all know. You got my email to bring this issue to your attention. Three trustees – Tom Jordan, Paula Belobradjic-Stewart, and Todd Warrick – contacted me right away and said that they would look into it, so I really appreciate that. Thanks to their efforts, two days later a dumpster was delivered to the house, and as I understand it, Police Chief Mann had a hand in that, so I really appreciate that.”

Manker urged the trustees to pass stronger code enforcement rules to stop the issue from arising again. Manker also had issues with abrupt cancellations of recent meetings by the village. He said that notices of cancellations weren’t properly given and that the village needs to do a better job of informing the public. “You know, there was no notice whatsoever given on the cancellation last week. I know that I was planning on calling in just like we are with this meeting, but it was abruptly canceled with no reason given. I only became aware of the cancellation thanks to Trustee Belobradjic-Stewart’s Facebook post. I just wanted to make sure that you figure it out to post these things in advance. These websites, as several of you alluded to earlier in this meeting, is not that hard to update.”

Manker said to divide up the labor so that multiple had access to the website for the possibility of quicker updates. Village President Harry Jennings took some exception to the timeline of events and the lack of communication. “Just so we’re clear, I replied to an email and informed Mr. Manker what actions the Village was taking. We were actually in the process of placing a lien on the property and hired somebody to clean it up before I received his first email. I informed him of that.”

The two men went on to further exchange words over whose version of events was truthful. Police Chief Tim Mann said he didn’t know dates in regards to emails of the situation, but Manker’s emails escalated the movement on getting the property cleaned up.

In a follow up message yesterday, Trustee Paula Belobradjic-Stewart said that Trustee Dick Samples had also worked behind the scenes on the code enforcement issue with Code Officer Bre Smith to help get the property cleaned up. Samples was the former code enforcement officer for the village and used to his knowledge to help fix the situation.

Manker said he would be following up with the Village within the next week on the situation.