Bellaire Landlord Levels Accusations Against Codes Enforcer

Photo by Shelley Hanson Bellaire Councilman Dan Brown and Councilwoman Nikki Liberatore look on during Thursday’s village council meeting.

BELLAIRE — The village’s codes enforcer, who is also its chief of police, has been accused of kicking in doors of rental properties for inspection by a landlord.

The accusations were made Thursday during Bellaire Village Council’s regular meeting. Bill Valput, owner of Valput Properties, came to council along with other members of a landlord association to complain about a possible $100 landlord inspection fee that had been proposed by Richard “Dick” Flanagan. Flanagan is the village codes enforcer and police chief.

Council members told Valput that it had not passed — nor had it drafted — such an ordinance. But before they could, Valput claimed Flanagan had “kicked in” the doors of five his properties to gain entry for inspection. Valput said he also believed Flanagan did not have the knowledge about building codes to perform such inspections.

Flanagan had been at the meeting before Valput spoke, but he had left and was not present when Valput made his accusations. After the meeting, Flanagan said via telephone that he had “no comment on anything” said during the meeting.

Councilman Jerry Fisher, who led the meeting because Mayor Vince DiFabrizio was absent, said he had not heard any such claims about Flanagan from Valput or any other landlord before the meeting.

“That’s one side of the story,” said Fisher.

Councilwoman Nikki Liberatore agreed.

“We need to give our codes enforcer the benefit of the doubt and talk to him,” she said.

Councilman Mike Doyle also wanted to hear from Flanagan.

“That’s one side,” he said. “We need to get his side of it.”

Councilman Donny Maupin asked Valput to provide the addresses of the five properties about which Valput made his claims. He told a story about one property and said it had been locked after a renter moved out, but that he received photos from inside the building from Flanagan.

“He wants to change the city, I give him credit for that,” said Valput. “But council has no idea how close the city is to major lawsuits because we have a rogue warrior stepping outside the law to enforce rules that he is just making up.

“There is no due process … he is making up rules on the fly,” he said.

Valput, at times visibly emotional, also talked about how landlords are unfairly called “slum landlords,” and that he invested millions of dollars into his properties during the past 40 years.

“My mother is in the hospital having surgery and I’m here,” said Valput. “That’s how important this is to me.”

One of the landlord association members, Ty Masciarelli, said he was told via voicemail that he must pay the $100 fee before the rental inspection could occur. He played the message during the meeting; it was a woman’s voice.

A couple of other landlords also spoke against a possible fee. No other landlords made statements matching Valput’s against Flanagan.

While the landlords were present, Doyle reiterated there was no fee on the village books. He said in the future, council may consult with them on any possible ordinances related to such a fee.