City Councilman Clyde Brown issued apologies to Mayor John Berlin and city Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst on Wednesday after he was shown copies of their email replies to his emails about an alleged zoning violation.
The email saga came to a head at the city council meeting Tuesday night when Brown questioned the mayor about the alleged violation in an M-2 zoning district, claiming he never received any replies from Kenst or the mayor regarding the several emails he sent.
During the meeting, which is televised live, he said he sent a photo of the alleged violation and emailed Berlin and asked him to ask the law director to file an injunction, but had not heard back.
After the meeting, Kenst and Berlin both said they sent responses to Brown's emails. On Wednesday, while being interviewed in his office, Berlin provided the Salem News with copies of the emails, clearly showing the responses along with the original messages sent to them by Brown.
"He keeps saying nobody responded. There they are. What can I say," Berlin said. "I've asked him to come in - he keeps sending emails. I've stated it every which way I can. He hasn't come in and seen me."
During an interview at the Salem News, when presented with copies of the email replies, which also showed his original emails, Brown kept saying, "I never got these. I never got these."
When asked why he didn't just call the mayor on the phone or go to his office to ask if he received his emails, he said he was so upset about not receiving replies that he wanted to do it in
public. He said he didn't know what happened with the email responses, saying he's received
email responses from others, but he had not seen these.
He immediately said he would personally give the mayor his apology and called both Kenst and Berlin.
"I do feel bad about what transpired," he said.
Brown sent the first email at 4:29 p.m. March 12 regarding crushed cars outside a building on West Wilson Street owned by the same firm running a recycling business on West Pershing Street, saying no scrapping of vehicles is allowed at the new site. He asked for an inspection at both locations and alleged possible violations.
Kenst sent a reply at 9:59 a.m. March 13, the next morning, thanking Brown for the info and saying he would turn it over to Planning and Zoning Officer Pat Morrissey and let him know if he discovers anything.
At 3:48 p.m. March 16 (Sunday), Brown sent another email regarding the M-2 issue, saying he had not received a reply. Berlin responded at 11:30 a.m. March 17 (Monday), telling Brown when Kenst replied to the original email. Brown sent another email at 12:54 p.m. March 21 (Friday), saying the picture he took speaks for itself and no inspection was necessary.
"Let's move on and get the filing out of the way and have our chat with the judge," he wrote, adding that since his first email, only Zellers had replied.
Berlin replied at 11:10 a.m. March 24 (Monday), asking Brown why he was persisting in saying that no one but Zellers had responded to his initial email. He repeated that Kenst responded right away, told Brown to quit saying that no one had responded and to check his records.
At 12:20 p.m. March 28 (Friday), Brown sent another email to Berlin and Kenst, asking them to urge Zellers to proceed with an injunction against the business he claimed was in violation of the zoning code. He said he was sure they had been contacted by Morrissey or Zellers about an email he sent them, also on March 28, and requested a reply.
In less than an hour, at 1:05 p.m. March 28, Berlin responded with an email to Brown, talking about the fact that his concern had been turned over to Morrissey which was noted in Kenst's original replay. He also noted Morrissey's workload.
"Please allow the planning and zoning office to build the case for the law director, if there is one," he wrote, adding that continued surveillance may be required.
Brown provided the Salem News with several emails from March 17 through Wednesday regarding the alleged violation and what he considered was a lack of action on his request. He also included an email March 18 from Zellers to Morrissey asking him to check the properties based on the photograph of scrap motor vehicles so he could determine if injunctive action was necessary. In another email, Brown referred to a conversation he had with Morrissey on March 27 regarding the site and questioning why no inspection had been made.
Berlin pointed out that Brown voted against the amendments to the zoning code that he's now asking be enforced regarding scrap yards and junk yards. Brown said he felt the old ordinance was sufficient.
As for the alleged violation, Morrissey was contacted Wednesday and said he's been by the property in question two or three times and told Brown last week that he was working on it, but had been tied up with work regarding the Holiday Inn Express project.
"We can see from the street the activity going on. It's quite evident from our observations from the street that the alleged illegal activity is taking place," Morrissey said. "I'll be consulting with the law director for legal action."