If we are truly interested in delivering impartial justice to all citizens, Chairman Frank Recker’s initiative to replace the Code Enforcement Board with a special magistrate (as is, for example, done very successfully in Sanibel, Sarasota and Key West) is the right course of action.
Along these lines, I would like to offer two related comments. Regarding concerns that the hiring of a special magistrate would impose an added financial burden to the taxpayers, let me note that, under the current system, there are legal resources devoted to, and legal counsel presence at, each and every Code Board hearing. It would be a straightforward matter to renegotiate city’s contract with the law firm representing it so as to eliminate this branch of the provided services. The savings would be applied to paying the salary of the special magistrate in what would turn out to be a win-win outcome for the citizenry.
The second comment has to do with many people’s negative perception of Code Boards, sharply limned against the background of a piece of mordant humor embedded in an actual judicial proceeding. Specifically, in the case of Michael D. Jones v. Seminole County, No. 95-1038, District Court of Appeals of Florida, Fifth District, the Court prefaced its decision with the following gem:
“We are not unsympathetic to Jones’ argument (based on newspaper accounts and Jones’ description of hearings before other boards, which Jones cites in this case) that some (Code) boards take unbridled and arbitrary actions, and may well deserve Jones’ characterization of them as “kangaroo courts.” (Emphasis in the original)