If you have tall grass, excessive debris or other code violations in Gulfport, you will how have to argue your case to attorney James D Thaler, Jr.
The Gulfport City Council chose Thaler, a long-time Gulfport resident, to preside over its new code enforcement system. At last night's regular council meeting, the board appointed him as the city's Special Master, who by state regulations must be an attorney.
Thaler will serve as a hearing officer for Code Enforcement and Nuisance Abatement. The goal of the procedures is to provide both residents and the city an alternative to costly legal action. Gulfport Ordinance 2011-21 established the new code enforcement measures, approved by the city council in November last year.
When Thaler begins to hear cases by late May, he will assess fines at his discretion.
According to the city, Thaler is well qualified for the job. He is a member of the faculty of Stetson University College of Law, as well as a local resident. In addition, Thaler has over 25 years of experience in real estate development and operating a small business. He was previously a hearing officer for the Pinellas County Housing Authority and has been practicing law for over 10 years.
Any fines collected in the code enforcement structure will go to reimburse the city's costs. As Special Magistrate, Thaler will charge Gulfport $150 per hour, billable in 10-minute increments.
This program is to be an alternative to the Pinellas County court system for Gulfport residents in violation of city codes.
"It will be more convenient, with a quicker and easier process," said City Attorney Andrew Salzman.
The council voted unanimously for Thaler, with Councilmember Jennifer Salmon and Vice Mayor Sam Henderson vouching for him personally.
"I have known Mr. Thaler for five years," Henderson said. "He is a good guy with a good heart."