Man jailed for not cleaning property draws sympathy

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Opp City Council on Monday opened the floor to concerns about a resident recently jailed after he failed to comply with the city’s nuisance abatement program.

Susan Herring made no direct mention of the resident’s name, but urged council members to consider other avenues for those whose homes have been declared a public nuisance and, subsequently, given 30 days to abate the issue.

“I just want to see our jail space used for actual bad guys,” Herring told council members.

Opp Mayor John Bartholomew said Herring was referencing Opp resident Mack Watley, who was jailed last week for violating a circuit court order to clean up his property.

Bartholomew said Watley’s property was declared a nuisance in 2013 and Watley was later found guilty of the violation in municipal court.

“He was fined $200 and given 20 days in jail, but the sentence was suspended and he was given six months to clean it up,” Bartholomew said, adding Watley instead opted to appeal to the county’s circuit court.

“He appealed city court, so he took it out of our hands,” he said. “In the first trial, there was a hung jury, but they tried him again and found him guilty.”

Bartholomew said the arrest came only after Watley also violated the circuit court’s order.

“They too fined him and sentenced him to jail time, but suspended it and gave him 60 days to clean it up,” he said.

In light of the arrest, Herring asked council members to consider allowing citizens to form groups that would help anyone physically or financially unable to clean their property, but did not specifically cite Watley’s case as fitting the criteria.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Bartholomew said. “We’re always willing to work with anybody to help clean up their place, but the ordinance is for everyone. All we’re asking is that you keep your place neat and clean for your neighbor.”