One of the two cases heard this morning (12.18.19) in Lakeland Municipal Court was continued to the next court date of Jan. 15th. The other was dismissed with a fine and court costs.
Presiding over court was newly appointed Judge Kim Koratsky who was named by the BOC (Board of Commissioners) Nov. 14th.
At the start of the court session, Judge Koratsky explained testimony, saying all in court swear to tell the truth. He said defendants were in court for code violations. But failing to be truthful is much more serious, he said, and could result in a charge of perjury and jail time. To that end, he swore in city employees and defendants.
Mr. Taylor, who owns the home at 9581 Oak Point Cove, was summoned back to court over issues with his pool, fence and drainage.
Katrina Shields, code enforcement officer for Lakeland, explained to the Judge that effective yesterday, Mr. Taylor was in compliance but not two weeks ago. The Judge explained that a conditional order was issued at the last court date of Oct. 24th with a deadline to comply of Nov. 20th. Since the deadline was not met, the Judge ordered Mr. Taylor to pay a fine of $500 plus court costs. He does not have to return to Court unless there are new code violations.
Diptesh Patel and Hinesh Patel from the Econo Lodge at 9822 Huff N Puff Rd. returned to court about their landscaping and lighting plan.
Forrest Owens, city planner, reviewed for the Judge the lengthy history of the case with screening shrubs and lighting being the current issues. He said the business was to plant 8-10’ shrubs as a screen along the back of the property facing Beverle Rivera Drive and remediate the parking lot lighting problem. He said the plants were only 6’ tall and spaced too far apart. He said there also had been no activity on the lighting.
Speaking to the defendants, Judge Koratsky said he had read the lengthy file which actually started in Shelby County General Sessions Court before coming to Lakeland Municipal Court. He said Judge Taylor Cates (former Lakeland Judge) issued a conditional order Oct. 24th to complete the landscaping and lighting.
Mr. Diptesh Patel explained his landscaper didn’t know the required size of the plantings but the work should be remediated by this weekend. Of the lighting, he said he has contacted MLGW many times and has not heard from them.
“You say you’ve called them and you’ve had since Oct. 24th to get this done,” said the Judge. With the November court date continued to December, there was an additional full month, said the Judge. He asked Tammi Ware-Stagggs, court clerk, what was the fine for 55 days. She replied it was $2,750.
The Judge then asked Mr. Patel to name the partners in the ownership of the Econo Lodge. He was told there are seven partners. The Judge requested that all seven names be provided to Mr. Owens. He asked Mr. Owens if he had the seven names and Mr. Owens said he only had the name of Pete Patel.
Additionally the Judge said to Mr. Patel that he didn’t have to wait for MLGW to fix the lighting. He could hire his own electrical contractor. To that suggestion Mr. Patel said that would be difficult and likely cost $50-$60K.
The Judge continued the case to Jan. 15th with the conditional order of $50 a day fine. He asked if the landscaping and/or lighting are completed before the court date, the Patels should please notify the City. “We are serious. We want this done. I have subpoena powers.”
He also asked the Patels to bring all the partners to court in January. Mr. Diptesh Patel said that would be impossible as some of the partners are in Africa and India. The Judge revised his order and asked that all partners in Tennessee or the vicinity be present Jan. 15th.
The Judge added he also has the power of contempt. If during the meeting in January everything is not complete, he will hold all the partners individually liable for contempt of court. “This needs to be disposed of in January.”
… Photos by Jim Willis, Lakeland Currents