FOr 13 months, William A. "Hoe" Brown was able to operate his illegal apartments in Seminole Heights because a Tampa code enforcement officer who visited the property couldn't find Brown and didn't bother to call him. Too busy, the code enforcement officer says. That is inexcusable, and the city should rework its procedures for investigating code violation complaints.
Almost from the moment Brown improperly placed mobile homes divided into smaller housing units on his property, Tampa code enforcement officials started receiving citizen complaints. Three times last year, code enforcement officer Bill Davidson visited the property but couldn't find Brown. Davidson could not go on the property without the owner's permission, so each time he left, leading to repeated visits to the site. As the then-chairman of the Tampa Port Authority and a highly visible figure in Tampa political circles, Brown should not have been hard to find.
The illegal rentals remained until July 9, the day after Davidson's boss visited the property after questions from the Tampa Bay Times. Protecting disadvantaged tenants against abusive landlords should be one of the highest priorities for Tampa's code enforcement officers. It should not take more than a year to hold a prominent slumlord operating illegal rental properties to account for his conduct because an investigator couldn't be bothered to make a phone call.