In November 2007, just over two years ago, the Town of Cutler Bay decided to pursue a virtual “witch hunt” against long-term residents, Glenn and Nicole Fried. In fact, the manner in which your elected officials have proceeded is eerily reminiscent of a Salem Witch Hunt. Unbelievably, the town has wasted more than $200,000 in taxpayer money to attempt to pursue, and in this instance victimize the Frieds.
This began when the town, without warning, plastered numerous town code violation notices on the Frieds’ front door. The Frieds are a family of community volunteers. They have volunteered by coaching youth athletics, educating school children regarding animals and attending, at the request of the town, multiple functions to display many of their animals to the children of Cutler Bay.
Reminding us that in some instances no good deed goes unpunished, the Frieds did so voluntarily and without ever asking for a penny in return.
The Frieds display of animals is intriguing, educational and simply wonderful. In fact, these animals are so wonderful that the town officials, one of whom was employed by Metrozoo, decided to cite the Frieds for allegedly violating certain ordinances. These violations ranged from allegations concerning unauthorized possession of animals, to illegal electrical work, to maintaining various non-permitted structures.
The town’s claims were so frivolous the it could not even call a single neighbor of the Frieds to testify in this witch hunt.
Realizing that they had not violated one code provision, the Frieds decided it was time to take a stand — and that they have done. It is a true David vs. Goliath the town, with apparently endless resources in the form of your tax dollars, versus a hard working and long-time family of the Town of Cutler Bay.
The Frieds requested a hearing in order to present their defense. The town, in response, hired a powerful law firm to prosecute the Frieds. The hearing, which commenced in April 2008, unlike the overwhelming majority of municipal hearings, did not take 15 minutes. Rather, and because of your elected officials and their legal counsel, the hearing lasted nearly two years.
The hearing was conducted before a special magistrate who was interviewed by the town, hired by the town, paid by the town and now, following the hearing and on the virtual eve of this special magistrate rendering his decision, fired by the town.
After the evidence and the presentations, one need not imagine very hard why the town has done so — again just prior to the decision being rendered. Unbelievably, the town has wasted over $200,000 in pursuing a frivolous legal proceeding which did not even result in a decision.
The Frieds were able to establish, among other things, that the town has no jurisdiction to regulate wildlife. Such jurisdiction, as is set forth in the Florida Constitution, belongs to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Further, the Frieds established that the alleged structures that they were cited for did not constitute “structures” under the applicable building code. The town did not realize this, as they never observed these structures in their entirety, before issuing the violation notices.
These alleged structures simply were animal cages that do not constitute “regulated structures.” Further, the Frieds established that an alleged illegal electrical apparatus was, in fact, nothing more than a small birdcage with no electricity.
The town’s harassment and victimization has left the Frieds virtually penniless and has taken a tremendous emotional toll. The town’s actions, in our opinion, were frivolous and constituted nothing more than harassment and gross governmental waste at its absolute worst.