Elected Officials and Ordinance Enforcement

Visitor Question: Is it legal for the Mayor or city council member to enforce city ordinances but not obey them on their own properties?

Editors Reply

Well, of course illegal behavior is illegal, regardless of who is misbehaving.

But somehow it seems doubly unfair, doesn't it, when we see hypocrisy among those who are elected to make laws and to oversee the hiring of staff to enforce laws.

Unfortunately it isn't extremely unusual to see elected officials ignore zoning laws, where zoning isn't a strong part of the community's tradition.

It's even more common to see mayors, board chairs, and city councilpersons feel like they can ignore building codes, property maintenance codes, or even nuisance ordinances when those things are inconvenient.

Again, this disregard for the laws the elected officials are responsible for making becomes more common in a situation where there is no widespread community support for the particular ordinances in question.

As a citizen, you are well within your rights to point out flagrant disregard of the law on the part of those who are supposed to be public servants.

If you are in a place that is large enough to have media, definitely feel free to tip off the press to this behavior. Give them specifics and ask them to protect your identity.

Even in a small town or village, you can use the power of word of mouth to try to discourage this sort of bad behavior. If you are spreading the word, please try your very best to give facts and specifics rather than trying to discredit through unsupported and vague statements.

Your ultimate power over this sort of thing is to elect a better caliber of public official, and we hope you will use your power to organize public opinion to try to do just that.

If for some reason you are reluctant to become involved in electoral politics, perhaps an action such as organizing a neighborhood association (if in a city large enough to have different neighborhoods) or organizing a clean government group would be something you would undertake.

If the facts are on your side, you may be successful in leading to better government in your community. We sure hope so.

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