Notice of Intent to Terminate [Harvey Ayers]
Via Hand Delivery

October 11, 2021
Harvey Ayers
3006 Caring Way #231 Port Charlotte, FL 33957

Dear Mr. Ayers:

You have been employed with Sarasota County Government since October 6, 2014. Currently you are in the classification of Code Enforcement Officer and a regular status employee.

A letter dated September 22, 2021, was sent to me from a homeowner stating that on March 12, 2021, you walked into his home through the front door without permission, and then issued a Stop Work Order (SWO) for unpermitted work taking place at the homeowner’s home.

An investigation was conducted by the Ethics and Compliance Office. On September 29, 2021, the Ethics and Compliance Officer (ECO) talked with the homeowner.

The homeowner did not remember whether you gave him a business card but that you did identify yourself as being with the County. He said that he read about you on “Nextdoor” and that he had “heard rumors he’s done it to other people,” and he said “then it clicked” so he sent the above-described letter.

On October 1, 2021, the homeowner reached out to the ECO to say that he wanted to “withdraw the complaint,” because he received a $500 citation from you. The homeowner said “I’m already in trouble with the County. I didn’t know it was going to go that way.” The homeowner told the ECO that he did not see you, but that you had left a citation with his name on it on his house. The homeowner said “I didn’t want to start a war with inspectors. I was trying to help other neighbors.”

The ECO met with you twice - on October 1, 2021 and again on October 6, 2021.

In regard to this complaint, you stated that you went to the property on March 12, 2021 because of a neighbor’s complaint and that, upon arriving, you could see from the street that the homeowner was engaged in unpermitted construction work. You said that you entered the house and noticed the extensive remodeling of the home, took some pictures, spoke to, and instructed the homeowner that he would need to get a permit for the work being performed. You prepared the SWO and posted it on the front door of the property. On March 31, you spoke to a contractor for the job and explained what needed to be done to comply with the Stop Work Order.

You said that inspectors typically give homeowners four - six months to obtain permits after an SWO is issued and that a reminder will come up in AMANDA, the code enforcement platform, 30 days after the initial SWO. You said code enforcement officers typically extend sixty – ninety days and that with extensions, there will be a note in AMANDA. You said in this case, there may have been one or two extensions, even though there were three extensions documented in AMANDA.

You also said that in the case of a “reinspection,” code enforcement officers “may or may not physically go back depending on whether the homeowner has applied for permits.” You said that Mondays are your “reinspect days”, that you regularly have 30-35 cases to “review every Monday, five – six to close, five – six to go to Court, and the rest get extended.”

When the ECO asked you why you went out to visit the home on September 30, 2021, you said you had “issued a new case when you saw more work was being done.” You further stated, “his (the homeowner’s) letter brought the case to your radar.”

You said you had received a copy of the letter on September 29, 2021 and researched it in the AMANDA system. You said that you have a “uniform and regimented system” for going back out to houses.

You had issued a $500 fine on September 30, 2021, and that while at the house you also observed that the homeowner had taken down the SWO posted on March 12, 2021.

A review of the AMANDA System shows that on September 30, 2021, you wrote “Owner failed to obtain permit to resolve the violation. On this date, also noted, work appears to be completed on the home in violation of the posted SWO and citation and SWO was posted. The case was forwarded to the magistrate at this time.”

An internal management review was conducted and supports the following findings:

  • In previous meetings with you, the ECO has advised you not to visit a complainant’s home, and you have agreed that you would not and would send someone in your place. However, during this most recent investigation being conducted by the ECO, you went to the home yourself and followed up with enforcement action(s) while the complaint was still active.

  • In this case, you visited the home, by your own admission, resulting from your review of the complaint letter, which as stated, “brought the case to (your) radar.”

  • A review of the AMANDA entries in this matter do not suggest that there was a “uniform and regimented system” for re-inspections as you stated during your second interview. You did not appear to have a specific trigger in AMANDA for reinspecting the home other than the complaint letter, which you received the day before you visited.

  • The Acting Building Official, Steve Bell, stated that the length of time between the SWO and the reinspection, e.g., six months, was “a little lengthy, definitely.” This suggests that the timing of the reinspection was out of the ordinary course of business and was precipitated by your receipt of the letter and not also a part of your regular review process, as you suggested.
  • Citing a homeowner during the process of an ECO investigation creates an appearance of a conflict of interest. Further, citing a homeowner during an ECO investigation erodes the public’s confidence in the County’s ability to effectively and neutrally evaluate complaints. As a result, the County’s reputation for conducting these reviews has been negatively impacted.

  • Other co-workers could suffer from your actions given the damage to the County’s reputation.

  • You used poor judgment in deciding to visit the homeowner’s home the day after receiving the complaint. Your actions have eroded my confidence in your ability to perform your job duties and represent the County in a positive and professional manner, which has put the County at risk.

  • Whether or not you intended to retaliate against this homeowner is mute. Your actions give the absolute appearance of retaliation, which is not tolerated at the County.
  • In addition, you did not inform me or the ECO that you had gone back to the homeowner and issued the fine/violation.

  • Based upon the foregoing, it is my conclusion that you have violated the County’s rules of conduct for employees as per Human Resources Personnel Policies, Procedures and Guidelines 4:02:

  • 15. Conduct Unbecoming a Public Employee. Conduct, whether on or off the job, that adversely affects the employee’s ability to continue to perform his current job, or which adversely affects the County’s ability to carry out its assigned mission.

  • First Occurrence. Documented Reprimand to dismissal. Second Occurrence. Suspension of 5 to 30 days, to dismissal. Third Occurrence. Dismissal.

  • I have considered the nature and severity of this offense, your length of County service, any prior disciplinary actions and the effectiveness of such, your demonstrated willingness to improve, your overall work performance, and disciplinary actions previously administered to other employees for similar offenses.

  • Therefore, I intend to terminate your employment.
    You may meet with me no later than October 14, 2021 to discuss this issue. Please plan to provide whatever information you have that you believe may mitigate against this action being taken to this meeting. You may contact Michele McCloskey at 861-5216 to schedule the meeting. Please remember that the terms of your administrative leave will remain in effect until the Final Notice of this action is complete.

  • Sincerely,
    Matthew Osterhoudt
    Director, Planning and Development Services
Cc: Steve Bell, Acting Building Official Michele Green, Manager, Employee and Labor Relations

Supervisory staff has discussed the contents of this letter with me and I have also been given a copy.
Employee Date


Supervisor (Witness) Date Human Resources File