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Tampa uses Tasered lawyer's argument for aluminum windows

TAMPA — Wood windows are too expensive.

That's one of the arguments city representatives made Monday to the Architectural Review Commission, which granted permission to install aluminum windows in the historic City Hall.

That bit of news might make you yawn until you consider this: A Tampa attorney made the same argument last week before a police officer stunned him with a Taser during a code enforcement hearing in that very building.

Carl Hayes, 53, was shocked and arrested Nov. 26 after getting emotional at a meeting where he asked for leniency on obligations to replace aluminum windows with wooden ones in his historic Tampa home.

Less than a week later, architect Larry Wilder went to the Architectural Review Commission, a seven-member board that monitors renovations of historic buildings, for approval of aluminum windows instead of wood at City Hall. Wilder said he had heard about the Hayes incident.

"It did make me wince, knowing we were going there to talk about the same thing," he said.

On Wednesday, Hayes referred all questions to defense attorney Barry Cohen.

Aluminum is cheaper

The city wants to replace 348 windows in the eight-floor, 93-year-old building on Kennedy Boulevard at Florida Avenue.

Wilder recommended using aluminum windows instead of wood to keep the project within its $2.2-million budget.

The existing wood windows were replaced or repaired in the late 1980s and 1990s, but have deteriorated beyond fixing, said David Vaughn, Tampa's director of contract administration.

Aluminum windows will look the same, he said. They also will last longer, require less maintenance, and meet state standards for wind resistance.

And they're cheaper.

He said he didn't even bother pricing wood windows, having done so recently for a renovation of Hillsborough High School.

"The wood was way out of the park as far as cost goes," he said.

Julie Brown was the only member of the Architectural Review Commission to vote against the aluminum window request.

"As a city, if we're going to preserve our local landmarks, then we need to uphold and set the standard for the rest of the community," she said. "It really upset me, especially when we don't allow it for residential buildings."

Hayes' conflict with code enforcement did not come up, she said, but commissioners talked about the precedent being set. With the vote, though, the city now has the green light to switch to aluminum windows.

Hayes never obtained permission. Plans for an expansion of his 1913 Seminole Heights home were approved by the Architectural Review Commission with a wooden window requirement.

But he put in aluminum, prompting complaints from neighbors and a code enforcement citation.

Hayes has been fined $60 per day since late October for not complying with the historic preservation code.

"He deviated from his plans. That's how it got to code enforcement," said historic preservation manager Dennis Fernandez.

Last week, Hayes pleaded with the code enforcement board, saying it would cost him $300 to $400 per window to replace 19 aluminum windows, a financial hardship after brain surgery limited his income over the last year.

Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said Hayes became combative during the meeting, yelling and calling people racist.

When Officer Don Miller tried to escort him out, Hayes hit Miller in the face with the back of his hand, and assumed a "fighting stance," she said. Miller then used his Taser twice on Hayes.

Police handcuffed him and took him to jail, charging him with felony battery on a law enforcement officer, felony resisting arrest with violence and trespassing after warning.

Cohen reviewing case

On Wednesday, Cohen said his law firm is reviewing the facts to determine what action it will take on Hayes' behalf.

"It appears to me that an injustice was done here," Cohen said. "There's a professional way to handle things and an unprofessional way to handle things. And law enforcement is to handle things professionally."

In an audio recording obtained by the Times, Hayes sounds calm addressing the board.

"I'm not here trying to break the law," he tells the panel. "The only thing I'm asking is for time to replace the windows. It would be better for me to be allowed to replace a few windows at a time."

Board chairman Sean Donnelly tells Hayes he could ask to have his fines reduced once the aluminum windows were gone, and Hayes thanks him.

"Okay," he says before starting to leave, "I understand now."

But when the board turns to hear from some of Hayes' neighbors, he speaks up again, saying he is "appalled" that they reported his windows. "I don't know if its based upon race that I am the only black person who is in that neighborhood," he says.

Then, historic preservation code inspector Aminta Owen says it would not be sufficient to replace the windows gradually.

"What is this?!" Hayes says in a loud voice. "You people are racist! I told you I'm sick."

"He's under a lot of stress," someone says.

Shortly after that, the audio recording picks up people shouting and the staccato Taser click.

A man howls.

McElroy said a police captain reviewed the incident and determined that Miller, a 14-year veteran who has provided security at more than 300 city meetings, acted appropriately. A complete report was not yet available because officers are still interviewing witnesses, she said.

Tampa uses Tasered lawyer's argument for aluminum windows 12/04/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 10:23pm]
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