By: Mark Saxenmeyer - 3/21/2012
A Burnsville, Minnesota man on his way to work was arrested and thrown in jail without bond, and then subjected to electronic home monitoring.
But it wasn’t for drugs or a DWI or some other major crime.
Burnsville city leaders say Mitch Faber’s dealings with the law all stem from his failure to properly put up siding on his house.
Faber says he had every intention of completing the stucco and decorative rock project on his home but he ran into money troubles when the economy soured. Burnsville leaders say they had no choice to enforce the law.
Here’s how a simple code violation spiraled into a criminal case:
Mitch and his wife Jean say it all began back in 2007 when they received a letter from the city of Burnsville saying, in part, "you must complete the siding of your home."
“We were in the process of finishing,” Mitch insists. “This wasn't something that we were trying to avoid doing.”
But in 2009 there were two more warning letters, and in 2010 yet another--this time requiring Faber to appear in court. Burnsville leaders provided 5 Eyewitness News with these 2010 photos of the Fabers' home as proof there was a problem.
“I was expecting maybe a $700 fine,” Faber said. Instead he was given an ultimatum -- finish the siding or go to jail.
So Mitch returned to his house and he and Jean say they spent about $12,000 putting a stucco façade over the plywood exterior. They thought they were finally in compliance. They were wrong.
Faber was then taken into custody in November 2011 after Burnsville inspectors ruled the work was still not satisfactorily completed. A warrant for his arrest had been issued when, according to the city, Faber failed to turn himself in because the house was still not up to code. Faber is adamant it was. Regardless, what came next, he says, was absolutely uncalled for and humiliating.
“I'm walking around in a green and white jump suit, I had to shower in front of a sheriff, I was shackled, my wrists were handcuffed to my waist — for siding.”
“It was insane,” said Jean. “Absolutely insane.”
After two days locked up, a judge agreed Mitch should be released but required him to submit to electronic home monitoring. In Dakota County, that process requires participants — no matter what their crimes -- to blow into a drug and alcohol device every time an alarm goes off.
“They could call me at 2 in the morning and they did,” Faber said.
Burnsville city leaders would not grant 5 Eyewitness News an interview about the Faber case but in an email from Communications Coordinator Marty Doll, he wrote, “”The city feels it provided Mr. Faber ample opportunity (nearly four years) to remedy the situation before issuing a citation…the city’s practice is to only issue citations for property maintenance issues (such as this one) as a last resort. In this case, the city determined a citation was the next appropriate course of action. Once the citation was issued, the matter had essentially left the city’s hands and entered the hands of the court system.”
5 Eyewitness News also called Dakota County Corrections as well as Midwest Monitoring (the company in charge of the electronic home monitoring) but calls were not returned. In a letter dated February 21, 2012, Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom wrote the Fabers, “This was a prosecution initiated by the city of Burnsville through their privately-retained city prosecutor. The County Attorney has no oversight or supervision over city prosecutors…While it was a district court judge who heard this case and made decisions pertaining thereto, judges are employed by the state of Minnesota and not Dakota County.”
The Fabers point to what they call far more glaring code violations outside other houses in their neighborhood. They’d like to know why they were targeted and others weren’t.
“It’s selective enforcement,” said Jean.
Most importantly, though, the Fabers say Burnsville made a mockery of an otherwise law-abiding man.
Asked Mitch, “What did you accomplish other than wasting the city's money, the county's money, our money, and then all the mental and emotional anguish? What did you accomplish?”