Jim Young is head of the city’s Code Enforcement operation– or Code Compliance, as they like to call it. By most accounts, Young is fair but firm in enforcing the city codes. But do you remember when then-City Manager Julio Avael fired Young back in 2006? You see, Young got caught treating all code violators the same — even if they were friends with or related to members of the City Commission; or even if they had powerful and well-connected lawyers.
After Young had red-tagged a project owned by the son of then-City Commissioner Harry Bethel, Bethel stood up at a City Commission meeting and compared Young’s code enforcement operation to the Nazi gestapo. When Young, an ex-cop, employed sophisticated undercover sting techniques to catch prominent local realtors systematically violating the city’s transient rental laws, their friends on the City Commission demanded that such “unfair” practices be discontinued. When Young uncovered serious building violations at the Galleon Resort, Michael Halpern — the Galleon’s powerful and well-connected lawyer– called for Young to be fired. Avael complied.
Young responded by filing a lawsuit asking for reinstatement under Florida’s whistle-blower’s act. He also filed a second lawsuit charging that the city was slow in providing documents his lawyer had requested. We covered this story extensively in Key West The Newspaper. But never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that Young would ever be reinstated. After all, Avael fired people all the time. And those who got fired filed lawsuits all the time. But nobody ever got reinstated. In any event, Young’s lawsuits began to slog through the courts at a snail’s pace.
Three years later, in 2009, the City Commission partially settled both lawsuits and reinstated Young to the top Code Enforcement job. Make no mistake. This was no small deal. This extraordinary action not only completely vindicated Young, it repudiated the corrupt administration of former City Manager Avael.
Last month, the city finally tied up all the loose ends — like paying Young and his lawyer almost $ 100,000.
Sidebar comment: Have you ever wondered why it takes so long for lawsuits to be resolved? For what it’s worth, I have a theory. In order to maintain a fat income, lawyers take on more cases than they can efficiently handle. In order to balance the load, they often ask the judges for continuances. The judges, who are also lawyers, almost always grant the continuances– which prolongs the time litigation is in the system. And, of course, the lawyers can charge for work done during the continuation period. That’s just my opinion, however. I could be wrong.
Dennis Reeves Cooper founded Key West The Newspaper in 1994 and was editor and publisher until his retirement in 2012.