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Landowner says he will sue county

A Citrus County landowner gave official notice Thursday that he intends to sue the county, claiming code enforcement employees have repeatedly trespassed on his property.

The landowner, Scott Adams, delivered his notice to County Commission Chairman Jim Fowler's office Thursday afternoon, starting a legal process that gives the government six months to settle the dispute before a lawsuit is filed.

"Now we start negotiating money," Adams said.

After all, Adams said, how could county employees rightfully get away with harassing him under the guise of performing routine inspections?

The state attorney's office announced days ago that it would not pursue trespassing charges against the county workers who set foot on Adams' 150-acre tract in eastern Citrus County, saying the chance of a conviction was nil.

But Adams has persisted, consulting with several attorneys to prepare his intent-to-sue notice.

Adams, who owns a stucco business in Inverness, has been clearing some of his land for agricultural purposes. He said inspectors have made multiple visits to his property.

County officials say they have done nothing wrong. Initially shocked that prosecutors were investigating Adams' complaint, the county's legal staff scrambled earlier this month to write an emergency ordinance "reaffirming" the authority of code enforcement officers to go on private land.

County commissioners, though, balked at the proposal, saying they did not see an emergency, especially when they were advised the county already has the law on its side.

County Administrator Gary Kuhl declined to comment on Adams' letter Thursday.

However, earlier this week, Kuhl defended the code enforcement officers. "We don't go on private property unless we absolutely have to," he said.

Adams said he told county officials that trespassers were not welcome and posted signs to that effect, to no avail. He also said officials ordered some of his land-clearing and logging work stopped, even though he said he had not broken any law.

Adams said his conflicts with county employees led them to further focus their attention on him for "selective enforcement."

In his letter to the county, Adams also said the government's intrusions had harmed him emotionally and tangibly.

The incidents with the county, he wrote, "have caused me tremendous disruptions in my business and caused unnecessary emotional torment and worry about my efforts to make an honest living and support a family."