Robbing Citizens to Pay Paul
I was blogging the other day and stumbled upon some important information. It seems that Lumberton Code Enforcer/Building Inspector, Paul Ockmond, is allegedly working under the previous inspector's certification and milking the city and citizens in the process. Stealing Southern Baptist Preachers??? Tell me it ain't so. Now I know why Paul Ockmond was slithering through my community, offering to pay someone to run against me. I discovered this Ponzi scheme accidentally. Imagine what I would find once I have access as an elected official? That thought has many scared and they're actually willing to pay to keep that from happening. What are they hiding? Are the ones currently serving on the board in on the scam? The bible carrying ministers seem very comfortable with the crew that's already in place; for some reason. We all know there's a plethora of individuals on Lumberton's payroll that's about as effective as set of old butter knives....dull and useless. Why would Paul Ockmond be any different?
On yesterday, I submitted a FOIA letter requesting copies of Ockmond's credentials. Merlene mulled over the letter, trying to decide if she was going to accept or reject the letter....like she had a choice. No matter what, someone in that office was going to give me a copy of the letter I submitted with the received stamp attached.
After she made several faces, she signed and stamped the letter. Just in case she didn't read the note on the previous letter, I decided to make the part about the copies bold because I didn't want her wasting the City of Lumberton's money by sending me another certified letter saying I owed for copies. Below is a copy of the letter I submitted.
The letter reads as follows: I, Jonathan F. Griffith, hereby give notice, pursuant to § 25-61-5 Miss. Code Ann. (1972), to the Lumberton Mayor and Board of Alderpersons requesting access and copies of all records pertaining to certification of Lumberton’s Building Inspector and Code Enforcer Paul Ockmond. Please note that this letter also serves as a FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) request letter. Since Mr. Ockmond is serving as the safety compliance officer for the City of Lumberton, it’s imperative that the citizens of Lumberton know that his certifications in the fields of electrical, plumbing, and various other safety codes is current and up to date in order to ensure he’s performing his duties in accordance with the BCEGS (Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule) and to confirm that he possess the diverse knowledge required to ensure that buildings, properties and individuals remain safe, legitimate and of course, up to code.
In addition to the request for a copy of Mr. Ockmond’s various certifications, in the interest of public safety, I need to know if Mr. Ockmond is qualified to conduct field inspections concerning ordinances, violation complaints, requirements needed in order to be in compliance, conduct interviews with witnesses, accurately document findings and activities, maintain data base of prior complaints, site visits and professionally document results in a written report to the board and have the report presented and added to the official board minutes. Additionally, I would like an explanation regarding the fees assessed for the electrical and plumbing inspection. In an effort to gain a better understating about the manner in which inspections are conducted, I would like an explanation of the fees charged and why a fee of $75 per inspection is charged and why Mr. Ockmond receives $60 for each inspection and the City of Lumberton receives the remaining $15. Since Mr. Ockmond was hired during executive session, these details were never discussed during an open meeting.
Previous building inspectors and code enforcers for the City of Lumberton worked as Independent Contractors. In addition to my request for copies of Mr. Ockmond’s certification, I am also requesting a copy of the contract between the City of Lumberton and Paul Ockmond if said document exists.
In the case that any requested record is exempt from access, please provide a short written response stating it is exempt, the reason or grounds for exemption, the length of time the exemption applies, and also please cite the specific authority used to exempt access to the record from the public. If the persuasion to exempt a request is guided by a previous decision of any Court of the State of Mississippi, please identify either the original cause, or appeal if applicable, describing the nature of the exemption. Please also do the same for any information that must be redacted from a requested record prior to fulfilling the request.
If the estimated costs associated with this request exceed $5.00, please notify me in writing before attempting to fulfill this request.
Also, if this request contains significant defect of form, or fails to identify the requested records with sufficient specificity, please notify me by phone before attempting to fulfill this request.
Now....I wonder how long will it take for Merlene to process my request. I know when I submitted a FOIA request to the Army Corp of Engineers, it took 5 days for me to get a written response and the information I requested was email the following day. I'm sure the Army Corp of Engineers is far more efficient that the City of Lumberton despite the large number of requests they receive but I will keep you posted on the timeframe.
I know this is turning into a long blog post and will probably cost the City of Lumberton a lot of paper since my blog is printed on a daily basis or as soon as they're posted. I submitted the request because the citizens of Lumberton need to know that the inspections they're paying for a done by a certified inspector. It's interesting that citizens pay $75 for each inspection but Paul Ockmond receives $60 from the inspection fee and the City of Lumberton receives the remaining $15. It was also brought to my attention that the complaints submitted about blighted property are not presented to the Alderperson of that Ward. It is rumored that the complaints are filed at City Hall, Paul Ockmond receives $60 for each complaint filed and the person named in the complaint is never charged. The proper process for such complaints are as follows: the complaint is filed, the complaint is forwarded to the representative of that ward, the matter is discussed at the board meeting and the inspector is then instructed to take further actions if needed. It seems that a new process is in place, Paul passes jail and collect $60 for each complaint. Hopefully, that will be reversed. So, on both ends, the City of Lumberton is getting screwed and that's the reason why Paul Ockmond is working so hard to pay a candidate to run against me as the representative of Ward 3. I found this information with just a little digging. Imagine what I can discover when I get my hands on the actual printouts that are supposed to be generated by the city clerk. No wonder we don't have money to spend on adequate services and qualified employees; we're spending money to pad Paul's pockets.