In an email early last month, mayoral candidate Damon Krane contested some remarks made by Athens Mayor Steve Patterson in an Athens NEWS article published March 6.

Krane, an announced independent candidate, has cited code enforcement and the poor state of rental housing in Athens as one of his main focuses in challenging Patterson for mayor.

As Patterson was quoted saying in the article, “Code Enforcement officers performed a total of 5,625 inspections” in 2018. Krane argued in an email March 8 that that figure seems to contradict numbers from previous years, according to the 2017 Office of Code Enforcement and Community Development Annual Report.

“The report states that in 2017 there were 5,587 registered rental units in the city of Athens and that, in addition to the 5,535 ‘rental inspections’ (i.e. regularly scheduled annual inspections) performed that year, code officers conducted 3,791 ‘re-inspections’ and 647 ‘complaint investigations,’” Krane stated in the email. “So in 2017 fewer regularly scheduled annual inspections were performed than the number of total registered rental housing units... But when we add to that year’s 5,535 ‘rental inspections’ the 3,791 ‘re-inspections’ and 647 ‘complaint investigations,’ we find that code officers actually inspected city rental housing units 9,973 times in 2017 – a number of inspections 44 percent greater than the number of rental units.”

Krane argues that those numbers raise questions about the number of rental inspections that Patterson has said were conducted in 2018 – 5,625, which is equivalent to the number of rental housing units in the city.

In a brief interview Wednesday, Patterson explained that the numbers he provided were taken from the Office of Code Enforcement and Community Development Annual Report for 2018. According to a copy of the report, which Patterson provided to The NEWS, Director of Code Enforcement Rick Sirois (whose retirement took effect on Friday) reported that there were 5,625 rental units registered within the city last year and that Code officers conducted 5,625 rental inspections in 2018, not including re-inspections and complaint investigations.

The 2018 report also states that city code officers conducted 1,986 re-inspections in 2018, significantly fewer than the 3,791 re-inspections conducted in 2017; and 605 complaint investigations in 2018, also fewer than the 674 conducted in 2017 (though Krane claims that the number for 2017 was 647 according to the 2017 report).

Krane also charged that Patterson “substantially” over-represented the size of the rental housing inspector workforce by telling The NEWS (as quoted in the March 6 article) that rental inspections were performed “with five, six if you count (Code Enforcement Director) Rick Sirois, code-enforcement officers.” 

Krane wondered “why would we count anyone as a code officer responsible for rental housing inspections who is not actually employed (to do so)?” 

According to the 2017 Code Enforcement annual report, Krane stated in the email, code enforcement staff included one director, two administrative assistants, two solid-waste inspectors, and four code officers. Krane said the city’s website and the Code Enforcement website also state that the city has only four code officers to perform housing inspections.

In response to the criticism, Patterson again referred to the 2018 annual report, which states that there is one director, one administrative assistant, one part-time general secretary, two solid-waste, litter-control officers and four code officers, for a total of nine employees. Patterson said Wednesday that in addition to code officers, solid-waste officers and the director conduct housing inspections. He corrected his earlier statement, saying that now, including the director, a total of seven individuals are conducting the inspections.

A Reader’s Forum op-ed on the above topic, written by a supporter of Krane’s mayoral run, can be viewed here.

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