REDINGTON BEACH — Town officials here are violating the rights of its residents because there is no appeals process when building officials “red tag” a project for lack of a permit, a former mayor charged Feb. 20.
Peter Farnum told commissioners he had been told by city staff there was no means to appeal such a stop-work order, but that he had discovered an appeals process described in a 40-year-old ordinance.
At the Feb. 6 commission meeting, Farnum had charged the town’s building department was “out of control” after building inspector Darin Cushing issued a stop-work order because a water heater Farnum was installing in a home had not been issued a work permit.
Farnum, who was Redington Beach mayor in the 1990s, said he was “appalled” to find out he could not appeal Cushing’s decision. When he was on the commission, Farnum said, “never ever would we allow a violation on a resident and not have that person have his due process in the front of the commission.”
Redington Beach maintained its own building department during Farnum’s term in office. Later, Pinellas County took over the job and about four years ago, a private firm, SafeBUILD, contracted with Redington Beach to act as the town’s building department.
Farnum said none of the commissioners appeared to be aware of ordinance 5.66, passed in 1980, that allowed residents to appeal to the board of commissioners any order by a building official.
Commissioner Fred Steiermann told Farnum, “I knew it and I talked to your wife … .” The commissioner was cut off by Farnum before completing the sentence.
“Then shame on you because you didn’t do it,” Farnum said. “You’re the one that’s ready for malfeasance, misfeasance and neglect, because if you knew this and you didn’t do anything about it, you’re open for a lawsuit because you violated a people’s due process knowing. You’re the guilty one.”
Town Attorney Jay Daigneault told Farnum the ordinance related to the construction of docks and had nothing to do with Farnum’s situation.
“It’s not my situation. It’s a building situation,” Farnum replied.
Farnum said he had “alerted” the commission to the “problem” in the building department two weeks prior. No action had been taken and Mayor Nick Simons had declined to add the issue to the commission agenda. “Why,” he asked, “was it laziness, or you just don’t care?”
“Now that I have made you aware of 5.66, you have fiduciary and legal obligations to incorporate 5.66 on every red tag notice involved,” he added.
Farnum said the ordinance needed to be updated, with information about appeals added to the stop-work order.
“A much-needed apology is in order for the victims of your incompetence. I have done my job. It is now up to you to do the job you were elected to do. Please do not let our town down again,” Farnum said. “You need to get off your ass and you need to do what is right for our town.”
Daigneault countered Farnum’s contentions. Due process procedures were included in a different section of the building codes, in section 2.292, he said. The code was amended in 2013 to make due process mechanisms “implied” in the section “explicit,” he said.
That revised section, he said, permits the Board of Adjustment to review decisions of building officials within 30 days of the action.
Red-tagging has a “full range of due process” with review by the Florida Building Commission possible, Daigneault said.
Responding to questions from commissioners, Cushing said anyone who has questions about a construction or remodeling job that has been red-tagged can talk to staff in the building department.
Appeals can be filed at the Redington Beach town hall or with the building department.