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Best Practices in Code Enforcement

By Bryan Guymon:

At last month’s annual Underwood Law Firm Municipal Law Seminar, Bryan Guymon gave a presentation about Best Practices in Code Enforcement.  The following are a few of the highlights!

1.Some of the difficulties of Code Enforcement can include:

-The complicated legal requirements.

-The political complications.

-The cost of enforcement.

-Nobody cares until they care.

-Who owns the property?

-Lack of prior consistent enforcement makes it more difficult.

 

2.What authority for Code Enforcement does a City have?

A.Home-Rule Municipalities can:

-Define and prohibit any nuisance within the limits of the municipality and within 5,000 feet outside the limits.

-Enforce all ordinances necessary to prevent and summarily abate and remove a nuisance.

B.Type A General-Law Municipalities can:

-Abate and remove a nuisance and punish by fine the person responsible for the nuisance.

-Define and declare what constitutes a nuisance.

-Abate in any manner the governing body considers expedient any nuisance that may injure or affect the public health or comfort.

C.Type B General-Law Municipalities can:

-Prevent to the extent practicable any nuisance within city limits.

-Have each nuisance removed at the expense of the person who is responsible for the nuisance or who owns the property on which the nuisance exists.

 

3.What options exist for enforcement of general nuisance laws?

A.Fines & Penalties – General Enforcement Authority

-Most city ordinance violations carry a maximum fine of $500.00.

-But there are penalties of up to $2,000.00 for violations of “fire safety, zoning or public health and sanitation”. Loc. Gov’t Code § 54.001 (b)(1).

-Penalties of up to $4,000.00 for violating a rule regarding the dumping of refuse. Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code § 54.001 (b)(2).

B.Civil Action to enforce an ordinance for:

-Preservation of public safety regarding materials used in construction;

-Preservation of public health/safety for fire safety issues in construction;

-For zoning classification enforcement;

-Land subdivision enforcement;

-Implementing civil penalties for Class C misdemeanors as defined by statute;

-Dangerously damaged or deteriorating buildings;

-Accumulations of refuse, vegetation, or other matter that creates breeding and living places for insects and rodents.

 

4.What are some tools to help the City with general code enforcement?

-Educational meetings/seminars.

-Community clean up days.

-Individual incentives.

-Assistance programs.

-Use public meetings.

-Use your resources for identifying problem areas including police, City employees, and citizen complaint process.

-Focus message on moving forward.

-Use the media.

5.Keep the following “Best Practices” in mind:

-Ensure City ordinance is current

-Use checklists to ensure compliance

-Be more tolerant than law requires.

-Commitment to consistency.

-Develop a plan to meet your long-term goals.

-Review your current ordinances for legal and practical concerns.

-Focus on consistency.

-Community engagement is a must.

-Focus on compliance, not penalties.

-And always….. Document! Document! Document!

Please remember that you should consult with your City Attorney with any specific questions you may have.




Slater Elza Elected President of Texas Association of Defense Counsel (TADC)

The Underwood Law Firm is proud to announce that Slater Elza has been elected to serve as President of the Texas Association of Defense Counsel (TADC) for 2020-21.  TADC is one of the largest state organizations of civil litigation attorneys in the U.S. with over 1500 members. TADC is a professional organization of civil trial attorneys dedicated to promoting excellence in its members, fairness in our judicial system, and preserving the right to jury trial for all citizens.  Elza previously served as Executive Vice President and President Elect of TADC. 

“Slater is a leader in our law firm and certainly has become a statewide leader of our profession,” said Gavin Gadberry, President of the Underwood Law Firm.  “Underwood has historically participated in TADC for many, many years, with Slater being the first from our ranks to become its president.” 

Three other lawyers from Amarillo have had the honor of serving as president of TADC:  Tom Riney (1997-98); Wayne Sturdivant (1977-78); and John Fullingim (1962-63).

“I look forward to serving as President of TADC and continuing our commitment to protecting the integrity and accessibility of the civil justice system,” Elza said.  “The future demands that we explore new ways to serve our clients in this day of ‘virtual’ litigation and soaring costs while maintaining our commitment to our clients and the judicial system.”

Elza will be officially sworn in as President at the 2020 TADC Annual Meeting in Galveston, TX on Friday, September 25th.  Another Underwood Shareholder, Jennie Knapp, serves on the TADC Board as the West Texas Vice President after previously serving as the Chair of the Young Lawyer’s Committee..

TADC is celebrating its 60th Anniversary as an association of civil trial attorneys this week at the Annual Meeting.  To learn more about TADC, please click here.

Slater Elza Headshot




Slater Elza Elected President of Texas Association of Defense Counsel (TADC)

The Underwood Law Firm is proud to announce that Slater Elza has been elected to serve as President of the Texas Association of Defense Counsel (TADC) for 2020-21.  TADC is one of the largest state organizations of civil litigation attorneys in the U.S. with over 1500 members. TADC is a professional organization of civil trial attorneys dedicated to promoting excellence in its members, fairness in our judicial system, and preserving the right to jury trial for all citizens.  Elza previously served as Executive Vice President and President Elect of TADC. 

“Slater is a leader in our law firm and certainly has become a statewide leader of our profession,” said Gavin Gadberry, President of the Underwood Law Firm.  “Underwood has historically participated in TADC for many, many years, with Slater being the first from our ranks to become its president.” 

Three other lawyers from Amarillo have had the honor of serving as president of TADC:  Tom Riney (1997-98); Wayne Sturdivant (1977-78); and John Fullingim (1962-63).

“I look forward to serving as President of TADC and continuing our commitment to protecting the integrity and accessibility of the civil justice system,” Elza said.  “The future demands that we explore new ways to serve our clients in this day of ‘virtual’ litigation and soaring costs while maintaining our commitment to our clients and the judicial system.”

Elza will be officially sworn in as President at the 2020 TADC Annual Meeting in Galveston, TX on Friday, September 25th.  Another Underwood Shareholder, Jennie Knapp, serves on the TADC Board as the West Texas Vice President after previously serving as the Chair of the Young Lawyer’s Committee..

TADC is celebrating its 60th Anniversary as an association of civil trial attorneys this week at the Annual Meeting.  To learn more about TADC, please click here.

 




Stephanie James to Speak at Texas Healthcare Association Virtual Convention

Underwood’s own, Stephanie James, will be speaking Wednesday, September 23 at 8:30 am on “Discharges: Avoiding the Most Common Mistakes and Strategies to Make it Stick” at the Texas Healthcare Association Virtual Convention (THCA). “The mission of the Texas Health Care Association is to unite, represent, and support professionals who strive to improve the delivery, quality, and integrity of long term healthcare services.”

Underwood Law Firm LOVES Texas Healthcare Association! The long term care section here at Underwood supports THCA, and we are showing that support by wearing “THCA Cares” t-shirts. Wishing THCA all the best as it starts its “virtual” 2020 Annual Convention next week. To learn more about the convention visit https://www.txhca.org/2020-annual-convention-2/  

Tune in to watch Stephanie! 

Long-Term Care Section Members, from top down: Angie Burrell, Karen Goreem Stephanie James, Rhonda Brashears, Laura Boyd, Sharon White, Eva Zamora, Gavin Gadberry, Chuck Mallard




Jennie Knapp Elected President of Amarillo Bar Association (AABA)

Jennie Knapp Appeals Amarillo Texas Lawyer

Another huge accomplishment for one of Underwood’s Shareholders! Let’s give a big congrats to Jennie Knapp for being elected as President of the Amarillo Area Bar Association (AABA).

 

The AABA is a non-profit professional organization for attorneys. First established in 1910 for the purpose of securing a Court of Appeals in Amarillo, the AABA now serves the legal community and the public in the 26 counties of the Texas Panhandle by providing education, professional development, and service programs for both the legal profession and the community.

Congrats Jennie, can’t wait to see what you do in the future!