Richmond City Councilmember Corky Booze was pressured to withdraw a request to waive fines on a property his ex-girlfriend owns at last Thursday’s Public Safety Committee meeting.
Booze had previously insisted on the committee hearing the request. He denied any conflict of interest, despite his position as a voting member of the committee. Booze decided to pull the item off the agenda after receiving an email from City Attorney Bruce Miller.
“Bruce Miller told me it wasn’t good so I pulled off,” Booze said after the meeting. Emails from other elected officials also expressed their oppositions to this item.
Since 2008, the Code Enforcement Department has levied about $9,500 fines on an industrial property at 801 Hoffman Blvd. for hazardous conditions and most recently for unlawful fence modifications.
Laura Baker, Booze’s ex-girlfriend, owns the property. The land was once filled with dump trucks and building debris, according to Richmond Code Enforcement.
“Maybe I was too close to Ms. Baker so I step back and let somebody else deal with it,” Booze said as he flipped through pictures of the property on his iPad. These images show that the land has been cleaned up. “Everybody thought it was a personal deal. It is not a personal deal,” he added.
Instead, Booze said that Code Enforcement slapped the fines on the land to retaliate for his recent move to restrict the use of city cars. Tim Higares, director of the Code Enforcement, is one of the people who would be affected by this restriction.
This is not Booze’s first contentious property maintenance case. The city sued him in July of this year for maintaining what it called a “junkyard” in Richmond. The lawsuit alleged that this land “was detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the public.” A hearing in that case is scheduled for January.