Alta City fires Code Enforcement Officer
By: RIMA AUSTIN
Storm Lake Pilot Tribune Staff Writer
In a special meeting held by the City Council of Alta Monday night the council called to the table City of Alta Code Enforcement Officer, Matt Hess. The board asked Hess several questions concerning the Community Building owned by the city and maintained by Hess. Hess gave a brief report of how many hours he spent over the last week cleaning the building and what the schedule looked like for it over the next two months. The meeting then took a tumultuous turn.
Alta Mayor, Al Clark, reminded the board how parties who rent the community building do not respect the building and it is slowly being torn apart. He asked the board to think about what they could do to prevent this in the future and bring their ideas for it to the next meeting. Clark then asked Hess if he had cleaned up the community center after the last party there, to which Hess replied, “Yes.”
“Did you take the reservation for the flu shots that were held there (last) Monday,” Clark asked Hess.
“Yes, it was, like, for an hour or something like that,” replied Hess.
Clark explained to Hess that Mondays after there had been a party held at the Community Building was not a good day to hold an event considering that was the day Hess had set aside to clean the building.
“It just didn’t look very well with the place being trashed the way it was,” said Clark. “It just didn’t look good.”
“We went out there and walked around,” said Council member Wes Bunjes. “What did you do out there Monday?”
Hess replied he moved furniture and supplies around, cleaned the bar room on Monday and cleaned the floors on Tuesday. Counsil member, Vi Tilk, intervened and explained to Hess she had gone to the Community Building as well the following week after the party and found cake on the floor. She then questioned his ability to clean the floor with a floor cleaning machine kept at the facility.
“Honestly, there was cake and dirt on the floor,” said Tilk. “I don’t know about that machine or anything.”
“You’re right, you don’t,” replied Hess.
“Well now, just hold on,” replied Tilk. “I was just going to say, you could have missed some spots. When you clean the kitchen do you wipe the sinks out? Because it looked like the sinks weren’t clean at all.”
Hess explained he usually just wipes everything down with a disinfectant and has never cleaned the ovens in the kitchen. Clark interupted Hess and explained the reason the board was asking all the questions. He went on to say he had asked the board to all go out and take a look at the building after Hess had said he had cleaned it.
“I know the place had been trashed,” said Clark. “Still, we had two days of cleaning up there basically and when I went in there Friday, I was surprised at what I saw.”
The questions then shifted to Hess’ abilities as the Code Enforcement Officer. Clark asked Hess what he had accomplished concerning a list of Jobs he had given to Hess to do enforcing city codes. Clark went on to say he had driven around town in his truck for two hours writing down property violations that needed to be addressed.
“We got it Al,” replied Hess. “You want the answer?”
“Other people might want to hear it,” replied Clark. “So please be respectful.”
Clark explained how, in two hours, he had made that list sitting in his truck. He went on to say that many of the items were pointed out to Hess over a year ago and they haven’t been touched. He then asked Hess to explain why.
Hess replied he had sent out numerous warnings and how only four recipients have replied. Clark, again, explained why the subject had been brought to everyone’s attention. He said when the board saw Hess’ report from last month, “we saw how little stuff had been done.”
“What exactly have you been doing as far as code enforcement officer goes,” asked Clark.
“I do plenty,” replied Hess. “Maybe I didn’t document everything that I should have, but, uh, I do plenty.”
Without warning, a member of the audience spoke up and said they would like to say something in defense of Hess to which Clark replied, “no sir, you cannot.”
“Why can’t he,” asked Hess, turning around in his chair and looking at the audience member.
“No, it’s up to me,” exclaimed Clark. “This is a question and answer between the council and you right now.”
The meeting then came back to order and the board returned to asking their questions of Hess. Clark explained how he had sent messages through Hess’ cell phone numerous times to which Hess never replied. City Clerk, Megan Peterson, responded to Clark explaining that Hess’ phone is a private phone.
“It’s our private phone,” said Peterson. “He has an office phone, just like I have an office phone.”
“Even when I call there you don’t return (the call),” said Clark. “Sometimes I’ve left you messages on your office phone and you don’t return calls, yes?”
“Correct,” replied Hess.
Council person, Kevin Walsh, explained to Hess that if he had filled out his reports correctly, they would not be having that meeting.
“We’ve got to keep up with it,” said Walsh. “We want to beautify our community.”
After a heated exchange between Hess and Tilk, Tilk then made a motion to terminate Hess’ employment, seconded by Willie Lange. The motion was then put to a vote. Every board member but Kevin Walsh voted yes.
“It’s not going to matter,” said Walsh. “I wasn’t ready to give up on you Matt so I’m going to say no.”
Clark went on to inquire about what equipment Hess had on site with him and where his keys were. He then asked the sheriff’s deputy who had been standing outside the board room to escort Hess to the company truck so he could retrieve his belongings and the meeting was adjourned.