Thursday, March 22, 2018

I can finally talk about this: This is what has been going on with me

I've had a huge distraction in my farming provided to me by a neighbor of mine.  If you'd like to get a feel for what the history is, you can check out what I wrote about her in 2013.
My special neighbor, Dale Shelton

Yes, 2013.  She's been on her rampage for 5 years.   In those five years she's called every regulatory agency she can think of to complain about where I keep my pigs on my property, what I feed my pigs, where I feed my pigs, whether there is manure or contaminated water coming from my property. She complained when I was plowing my field and planting grass (he is filling and grading without a permit!) and so on.  

In those five years she's reached the Washington State Department of Ecology, The Washington State Veterinarian, The Snohomish County health Department, the Snohomish County Planning and Development Services (building permits), Snohomish County Sheriff and Snohomish County Animal control.  

She has registered one or many complaints (With animal services she's made at least 100 calls and registered something like 20 formal complaints) and each one has responded by contacting me in writing, sending staff members to my farm to inspect, or having that agency in turn contact other agencies, who then contact me or send staff members.  

I wrote up one of those early visits in 2013, by the Department of Ecology  but that wasn't the last visit by that department, and that wasn't the only department that did visit.  I've gotten to know every possible regulatory agency and staff member in my area on a first name basis.  

I started getting complaints about my livestock on the road, and for the longest time I couldn't figure out how they were getting out.  It would work like this:  I'd get a notice, with some pictures of a pig or cow out of my fence, on say July 1st.  But the notice I got wouldn't be until the end of July, or into August - weeks after the fact.  And the notice would come with a fine - initially $50, but eventually getting to $200 a shot.  This gets expensive quick.  

I would appeal the fines, and try to figure out what was going on; maybe we were moving animals, or maybe someone else opened a gate, or maybe they're not my animals, but the appeal process for this violations is a bit of a kangaroo court in my opinion.  The hearings examiner who hears them has never upheld any appeal of animals at loose at any time on any basis for his entire tenure in my opinion and based on the research that I was able to do, and as a result I'd just pay the fine after losing my civil appeal and move on.   But the complaints kept coming, and pretty soon animal control decided that they would charge me criminally for the animals out.  

Every time I'd get a notice that I had an animal out 4 to 6 weeks before I'd go out, and look carefully at the fences and gates, and if I saw anything amiss I'd do something.  Add more fencing.   A hog panel.  More posts.  Clear the brush.  Make sure the fence was carrying a good charge, whatever I could do.  But the complaints, and pictures, and fines, continued.  

At some point I received a criminal summons from the Snohomish County Prosecutor that they were going to charge me with 11 counts of criminal animals at large,and that each count carried a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine; potentially I would have to serve nearly 4 years in jail and pay $11,000 in fines if I were given the maximum sentence as charged.  

4 years in jail.  that's serious jail time.  

Ms. Shelton wasn't satisfied with that though.  While complaining to all of these agencies about me she filed an anti-harrassment order against me, claiming that I was harassing HER.  She did this first in 2014, and then a second time in November of 2017.   If she was granted either of those orders all she had to do to have me arrested is claim that I frowned at her, basically.  And she's my next-door neighbor.  That would be unbearable. 

So now I'm dealing with a restraining order, a multi-count criminal prosecution and random complaints to agencies, along with a building permit...  oh. I didn't talk about the building permit yet.

Dale and her husband used to own this property, and during the time they owned it they built two barns.  They apparently didn't get any permits for those barns, and they didn't disclose that to me when I purchased the property.    One small barn, and then other is the biggest, most expensive barn on the property. 

Dale admitted in court that she made this anonymous complaint (that's her handwriting) and that she did so to harm me.  Dale is a retired permit/construction inspector for the department of transportation.  If anyone knows when a permit is needed, she's the one. 

Snohomish county Planning and Development services investigated, and found that yes, buildings were present on my property that were constructed without permits.  in 2006. 

I purchased the property in 2013.  Dale turned herself in for a violation that she committed to harm me - I have to say, that shows dedication.  She's putting herself at financial risk by doing so,but apparently no cost is too high if she can cause me pain.  So in addition to all of the other stuff she's putting me through she tosses building permits onto the fire, and then fans it by making followup calls to every agency on a regular basis. 

Criminal charges.  Potentially 4 years in Jail.  More than 10 thousand dollars in Criminal fines possible.  Building permits that cost tens of thousands of dollars to complete.  Civil fines.  Regulatory action.   

That's on top of having to run a business, and all of the normal challenges of farming.

You wondered why I slacked off on blogging?  I was a little busy :)



monica springer said...

Were your animals actually out when she complained that they were?

That's a bummer. I enjoy your blog and hope you can shut this woman up!

Anonymous said...

"I started getting complaints about my livestock on the road, and for the longest time I couldn't figure out how they were getting out."

How were they getting out? It wasn't clear.


Bruce King said...

Monica: I've posted the pictures used as evidence in the next blog entry. Yes, there are animals on the road.

EJS: That's what I thought too. How are the animals getting out? It took me a long time to figure it out, too. I'm writing up the story in the way it came to me.

grasspunk said...

Oh man what a neighbor! Based on the history of your farms, I don't think she picked the right person to attack. Best of luck with it all.

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