Please Click Here To Watch The Video Interview Of Erwin Jackson Regarding These Criminals In Government Violating His Right To Privacy Under The Fourth Amendment With Their Illegal Harassment With No Valid Reason
City defends hiring PI
Attorney’s office calls off private investigator in Erwin Jackson case
11:56 PM, Mar. 2, 2012 | By Jeff Burlew Senior government editor Of The Tallahassee Democrat
The Tallahassee City Attorney’s Office is standing by its decision to hire a private investigator as part of its defense of a small-claims lawsuit brought by City Hall critic Erwin Jackson.
Deputy City Attorney Lewis Shelley said the hiring of the private eye was “totally legitimate” and necessary for the city to fully defend the lawsuit.
However, Shelley acknowledged the city may have made a different call given reaction to the hiring of Donna Brown, a private investigator and former Tallahassee Police Department officer.
“You can always second-guess yourself after the fact,” Shelley said. “If we’d known we would have created this controversy, we may not have hired the investigator.”
Jackson, a local businessman and landlord best known lately for his relentless criticism of Mayor John Marks, says City Hall is retaliating against him by hiring the investigator to snoop around his properties.
“I am getting special treatment — I knew I would,” Jackson wrote in an email to the Democrat and city commissioners and staff.
Assistant City Attorney Louis Norvell hired the investigator earlier this week not for political payback, he said, but to gather evidence for the lawsuit, which Jackson filed last year over a utility easement. He said the hiring had nothing to do with the mayor.
Shelley and Norvell said the city routinely hires private investigators in litigation involving personal-injury lawsuits, employment claims and other matters. The Democrat has asked the city for details on how much it has spent on private investigators. The city is gathering the information but did not immediately provide it.
The lawsuit involves a swath of land off Mayhew Drive located behind Airport Drive properties Jackson owns. Jackson said that for years, he’s used the easement, where utility lines are located, to access a shed in the backyard of one his properties, where he stores lawn-maintenance equipment. In January of last year, the city locked a gate at the entrance to the utility easement, blocking Jackson and others from using it.
Norvell said the city locked the gate after getting a complaint from a nearby property owner that people were using the easement without authorization. At the time, the city believed it actually owned the easement property. But after doing a title search, the city realized it was privately owned. Around May or June of 2011, the city removed its lock, opening the easement back up for Jackson’s use.
Jackson, who owns a number of rental apartments and homes, said losing access to the easement cost him thousands of dollars because he had to rent a lot from one of his businesses to store the lawn equipment and hire an attorney to handle the dispute.
Jackson billed the city $2,512.50 but later got a check for only $75. Outraged, he filed the lawsuit seeking $4,720.
On Thursday morning, Jackson said he got a call from one of his employees that a woman was hiding in the bushes of one of his properties, Green Briar Garden Homes off Jackson Bluff Road, and taking photographs. The woman left after employees confronted her but not before they were able to snap a photo of her.
Jackson called police, and one of the officers recognized Brown in the photograph. Jackson later got a call from Norvell, who told him the city hired Brown to see whether he was using the lawn-maintenance shed for a commercial purpose, which city officials say is illegal because it’s located in a residential zone.
He has since filed a trespass warning against Brown along with a suspicious-incident report with TPD.
Norvell said he hired the investigator only to see whether Jackson was violating zoning laws by using the shed for the use of his other properties. Norvell says if the city can show Jackson is using the shed for an illegal use, it can prevail in the small-claims lawsuit.
“We needed to gather evidence of the zoning violation in this case,” Norvell said. “And I hired the investigator to observe the property and determine whether or not there were zoning violations.”
Norvell said Brown observed workers remove equipment from the shed on Airport Drive and take it to the nearby apartments. He said he has since told the investigator to stop surveilling Jackson’s properties. Norvell said he expects the bill from the investigator to come in under $1,000.
Jackson says the city is harassing him because he’s been “running his mouth” at City Commission meetings and complaining about alleged misdeeds involving the mayor.
“That’s what’s going on,” Jackson said. “That’s the only way they can try to hurt me and keep me quiet. And you know that isn’t going to work.”