City Council approves hearing officer agreement

Angelica Cataldo, Entertainment Reporter

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Matthew Lee has been officially authorized as Charleston’s new hearing officer for the Administrative Code Hearing Department.

On Tuesday, the Charleston City Council approved the motion to authorize a contractual agreement made in June with Lee. The first code violation hearing is scheduled for Jan. 24, 2017.

City Manager Scott Smith said the council staff and legal department, including Lee, have been going through training to prepare for the new agreement.

“What we’d like to see with local and minor ordinances is compliance,” Smith said. “We think this will certainly help citations and local issues be dealt with in a speedier time frame.”

According to city records, the agreement states Lee will provide professional legal services for the city and serve as the hearing officer and adjudicator for the administrative hearings regarding local ordinance violations.

Hearings will then be set for the first and third Tuesday of every month, dealing with local ordinance violations such as housing, building and zoning codes, parking, vehicle registration and health safety violations.

Citizens who were cited with a violation will be mailed a notification with the date and time of their hearing and will have the opportunity to provide any evidence they have for their case.

This excludes any federal and state offenses such as state traffic law violations with a penalty for incarceration.

The city agreed to pay Lee $185 per hour with compensation for an hour of travel of up to 200 miles.

City Attorney Rachael Cunningham said fees paid as part of the hearing will also go toward Lee’s salary.

Smith said hearing officers are typically retired judges or active attorneys. Lee has been a criminal defense attorney in Bloomington since 2003, which made the city council consider him because he had his experience in the field.

If the agreement is successful, Charleston may consider hiring more than one hearing officer for local ordinance violations, Smith said.

“One hearing officer may work, it may not,” Smith said. “(Lee) may not be the only one we hire if we feel the need to hire an additional officer.”

In addition, the city council also approved the authorization of acquisition of permanent easement at 810 W. Polk Ave. in the Westchester Subdivision to mitigate drainage problems.

The easement will allow for the owner of the property to be exempted from paying any fees for the maintenance of the drainage system.

 

Angelica Cataldo can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]