Back in January, my sweetheart got a phone call at his manufactured home store that we won’t soon forget. The caller ID said, “Screaming Flea”. “Sounds like a dog groomer,” I said. It turns out that Screaming Flea is the production company for the television show “Hoarders.” They were filming an episode in nearby Teague, Texas, and the woman that was the subject of the show was living in a mobile home. As they proceeded to clean the home, they discovered that it was in such bad repair that it was completely uninhabitable. They needed a new house, NOW! And, they had no budget for it, so it would have to be free, too.
Long story short, my sweetheart found a home he had taken on trade-in, fixed it up, and donated it. He even went out to the site and removed the old home before he installed the new one. And he got to give “Miss Connie” (the woman featured in the episode) the keys to her new home on camera. (For the full story and lots of pictures of our reality TV adventure, visit StarTexHomes.com.) It was a grueling few days of very hard work for him and his crew, but Miss Connie was very appreciative and the project was a great success, except for one thing: We didn’t get a permit.
We didn’t realize at the onset of this project that this property was even within the city limits, and with the urgency of the situation and everything else that had to be completed in just a couple of days we did not get a permit from the city to install the home. The very next day we went to City Hall and explained our mistake, and asked to buy a permit. There was a lot of hemming and hawing, and a lot of resistance we didn’t expect. It seemed that some people in Teague weren’t too happy that an episode of “Hoarders” was being filmed in their backyard. Eventually, my sweetheart was referred to the City Manager, and had a meeting with him a day or two later.
I didn’t get to witness the epic battle that followed, but as I understand it the City Manager did most of the talking, and it wasn’t very pleasant. He met with him in the City Council chambers, and no one bothered to sit down. Two city employees were present, but they were looking down at the floor the entire time. The City Manager told my sweetheart that he had caused a huge problem. He cussed him out. He called him names. He told him to “get out of this town and never come back.” My sweetheart said he had never been spoken to like that in his entire life. He was shocked.
When my sweetheart asked if he would be allowed to complete installing the home by hooking up the plumbing, sewer, electricity and such, he was told that he’d “better finish what he had started.” However, when he went back to the job site, a stop work order had been posted on the new home. When he met with the City Attorney, he was told that he could be arrested if he did any work on the home. He also received two citations: One for moving a home through the city of Teague without a permit and the other for “Illegal Dumping.” This latter charge was due to the fact that he had parked the old, uninhabitable home in a vacant lot next to a mobile home park overnight, as it was raining and not safe to haul it away. He had attempted to contact the property owner using the phone number on the park’s sign, and had left a message. The charge for moving the home was pure poppycock. The State law states that no city or municipality can assess any fees for transporting a home through their jurisdiction. Not to mention the fact that we did have a permit from the Department of Transportation to move both homes. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Rude City Manager! In short, they had no real case and the citations were pure harassment. So what did he do? My sweetheart requested for a jury trial.
He got a summons for court last month and when we arrived we were asked to wait in the City Council chamber. In a stroke of irony, there was a large sign on the wall delineating the goals for the city. Among them was “Housing Opportunities” with a nice blurb about improving housing for low income citizens throughout the city.
After waiting for a while, an attorney representing the city asked to meet with us in a small office with a city clerk in attendance. She offered my sweetheart a deal: half off the fines and nothing “on his record”. She was incredibly condescending and interrupted him when he tried to explain his point of view. As the conversation came to the point of diminishing returns, we left, reiterating that we wanted a jury trial. We reviewed the summons afterward and it did indeed indicate that we were supposed to have been attending court with the judge and such, not meeting with an attorney to make a plea. There was no judge in sight, though; just a prosecutor with a chip on her shoulder and a lack of listening skills.
He received another summons for Monday and went to court again. I wasn’t able to go, but got the play-by-play via text messages. Here are some excerpts.
Sweetheart: “The prosecuting attorney just told me if I lose my case and don’t pay my fine today then I must go straight to jail.”
Me: “Holy crap!”
Sweetheart: “She offered to drop the dumping charge if I paid the other.”
Me: “Did you tell her you want your day in court? She doesn’t know who she’s dealing with.”
Sweetheart: “I guess we will see about that. She already warned me that she would object to any evidence I present pertaining to Hoarders. She says it is not relevant.”
Me: “Don’t take her word for that. Let the judge decide.”
Me: “She is the enemy. Any advice she gives you is suspect.”
Sweetheart: “Judge is here. Looks like we are fixing to start.”
Me: “Go get ‘em! You have right on your side.”
Sweetheart: “I will win this case.”
Me: “Yes you will. Her last ditch attempt to get you to take a plea was proof of that.”
Sweetheart: “I want to win and then file suit. It’s all about that city manager for me. I don’t think Texas is big enough for both of us.”
Me: “He will regret the day he met you.”
Sweetheart: “OMG the jurors just left the building.”
Me: “What? Why?”
Sweetheart: “Jury was dismissed. Things are looking up.”
Me: “They are going to dismiss the case! I know it!”
Sweetheart: “They tried one more time to get me to take the deal and I told them no. Then they went behind closed doors and all of the jurors were excused.”
Me: “Is yours the only case?”
Sweetheart: “There was also one that was supposed to start at 3:00. That guy took their deal.”
Me: “Poor sap.”
Sweetheart: “One of the jurors was the city utilities inspector.”
Me: “OMG seriously? Talk about a conflict of interests! Is the city manager there?”
Sweetheart: “He is here, but has yet to make eye contact with me. What a coward.”
Me: “Pussy. He avoided all of his problems in California* by coming to Texas and now he’d avoiding you.”
Sweetheart: “Case dismissed! I am headed home!”
*After that dismal meeting with the City Manager, we did a little research and discovered that the FBI was investigating him regarding a bribery scandal in his native Monterey, California. According to media reports, he had offered a bribe to a City Councilman, in front of the Councilman’s wife, for a favorable ruling on a multi-million dollar retirement community project he was developing. Not long after that he left the bright lights and the big city, and settled in the tiny backwater of Teague as its City Manager, a position for which, by all accounts, he is highly overqualified. Puzzling? Not really.