The Village of South Jacksonville Code Enforcement Office appears to be in a bind over a civil contract entered into by Mayor Tyson Manker.
According to documents obtained by WLDS, on July 26th, Manker entered into an administrative agreement with village resident Linda Diddens to clean up her property located at 122 West Vandalia. According to the agreement, the residence has been in violation of multiple code provisions throughout the years, which have been documented in the Code Enforcement Office.
Village Police Chief Eric Hansell says that the agreement directs village resources to clean up the property and absolves the village of liability in cleaning up the property: “[Mayor Manker] had made an administrative agreement between Linda Diddens and himself or actually the Village of South Jacksonville to go in and provide a dumpster using village funds and village employees and/or volunteers to assist in cleaning her property, which would be throwing away personal property or whatever is outside that they deem necessary. It absolves the village of any wrongdoing if something that she didn’t want thrown away got thrown away or a tree got cut down that she didn’t want cut down. Basically, he entered into a civil contract with her, which prohibits the police department from enforcing any codes violations at her residence; basically circumventing what we need to do as a codes enforcement or a village.”
Hansell says he doesn’t have a problem with the village helping a resident out who doesn’t have the funding to clean up their property or who are elderly or physically unable to clean up their property. He says in those situations the village has volunteered to help in the past: “We have done that with a couple of residents in town that just don’t have the funding. They don’t have the ability because they are elderly, but what we did was we provided volunteer labor and I went on my Saturday off work and we cleaned up brush and piled it out front [of the residence]. Then, we got rid of it for them. They were a special circumstance. The way that I look at is that the village had allowed them to get to the level [of non-compliance] that they were, and then all of a sudden we imposed restrictions on them and expect them to clean it up when they are 80 and 85 years old, and they don’t have the physical ability nor the money to do it. We got a church group that came and helped cut brush, drag it to the curb, and we ended up getting it hauled off. Now, we did use Village resources to haul it off. We had the employees load it in a backhoe and a truck and then hauled it to the brush drop off. It was a community effort that really didn’t cost anything hardly to the Village, and it assisted the elderly residents in getting their property into compliance.”
Hansell says that the two residents who have had the brush clean up done were enrolled through the LEARN program at the Jacksonville and South Jacksonville Police Departments, which is a community-oriented program that helps residents address life, health, and safety issues they have when they don’t have income or means to address those problems.
Hansell believes that the Diddens case now absolves his department from enforcing the codes of the village, and if there is further non-compliance, the village would have to go to civil court to settle the matter with Ms. Diddens.
The Village Trustees said at Tuesday night’s special session meeting that they were made aware of the contract at last month’s business meeting. Trustees also were told that Village Attorney Rob Cross had not seen the contract before it was issued to Ms. Diddens.
Diddens’ contract now is on hold as the village board determines the next steps to determine the contract’s validity and the village’s obligation to fulfill the agreement.