Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe said an Alachua County Sheriff’s deputy declined to intervene in an incident on Saturday at Champion’s Park because the deputy said the city has not officially identified the ASO as the enforcement agent of the relevant ordinance.
Marlowe said a hot dog vendor set up a stand near Champions Park on US Highway 27/41 outside of the park, but it was on the right of way, which is a violation of the city’s ordinance regulating where a food truck or vendor can set up.
“In my 10 years on this dias I have called ASO six times,” Marlowe said at the commission meeting on Monday night. “The answer has always been the same: We can’t enforce that.”
Marlowe said that as a result of the location of the hot dog vendor, kids waiting in line were playing in the street and that was unsafe.
The vendor refused to leave the location when asked to, according to Marlowe, which prompted the ASO call.
Marlowe said the responding deputy declined to act on the vendor’s refusal and consulted with ASO general counsel attorney Jacob Rush.
The deputy’s response was that the city has failed to identify the ASO as the enforcement agency of the Champion’s Park and the food truck ordinance.
Marlowe said the city’s code enforcers currently work Monday through Thursday.
“When this happens on Sunday (weekend) at 10 a.m., I just have me and the officer,” Marlowe said. “I’m stuck.”
“Why wouldn’t we have a blanket statement that states anything illegal in the City of Newberry is enforceable by the ASO?” Marlowe asked.
Marlowe then asked city attorney Rich Maltby for advice. Maltby read a section of the law enforcement contract between Newberry and the ASO.
“That would be overkill,” Maltby said. He added that the starting point in meeting with ASO general counsel would be focused on Section 6 of the contract.
Maltby then read what he said was a blanket statement: “Sworn law enforcement officers of the sheriff are hereby vested with the power to enforce the ordinances of the city, to make arrests incident to the enforcement thereof.”
The contract goes on to say that at no time will deputies be called upon to perform duties of a code enforcement officer, Maltby added.
Maltby said he interprets the language as ASO deputies having authority to intervene when a code is violated, but they are not responsible for procedures that a code enforcer would carry out, such as the notice procedure and hearing scheduling.
“I think that is the intention behind that provision but I think that’s where our discussion starts,” Maltby said.
According to ASO spokesperson Art Forgey, a meeting is in the works to address the situation.
“We are aware of the situation and deputies consulted with our general counsel when this occurred Saturday,” Forgey said. “Currently our general counsel has contacted the attorney for Newberry and is waiting to hear back from them.”
According to the amended interlocal agreement for law enforcement services between Newberry and the ASO, Newberry is paying $1,007,513 from Oct. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021 plus health insurance and Florida Retirement System increases.
The code enforcement issue comes as Newberry is openly weighing creation of its own police department.