BRENTWOOD -- The city is preparing to change how it handles code enforcement issues involving rental properties owned by city employees.
The proposed policy change would place code enforcement issues involving properties in which city employees are owners or landlords in the hands of the Brentwood Police Department. Prompting this action by city officials were complaints by a group of concerned residents on Carnegie Lane that a rental home owned by Brentwood's senior code enforcement officer, Berenice Arteaga, has been the source of constant neighborhood disruption, including code violations and domestic disturbances.
"When the senior code enforcement officer owns the house, it is legitimate to feel there is a perception of a conflict of interest," City Councilman Erick Stonebarger said. "The city should have had a policy or procedure in place to handle that. There will be a strong procedure, if I have my way."
Arteaga did not return multiple calls for comment from this newspaper. She supervises at least three other code enforcement officers in her department.
"This neighborhood is a nice neighborhood, and we shouldn't have to deal with stuff like that," Carnegie Lane resident George Esquivel said.
Stonebarger said the potential conflict lies in placing Arteaga's code enforcement staff in a position to cite their supervisor for violations.
Stonebarger and Brentwood Vice Mayor Joel Bryant will review the proposed policy revision through the council's Neighborhood Improvement Committee before it is presented to the entire council. According to Stonebarger, the current process is flawed and failed the residents of Carnegie Lane, affecting their quality of life.
"When you have co-employees monitoring each other, it can cause tenuous situations," he said. "I want our employees to invest in the community. We want to protect them as property owners and handle any perceived conflicts."
The city has handled minor code enforcement violations at the Carnegie property involving garbage cans being left out and failure to mow the lawn, but there have been zero complaints of that nature since July, according to Brentwood Community Development Director Casey McCann.
"If an employee of code enforcement owns a property, we don't want any potential appearance of a conflict of interest," City Manager Paul Eldredge said. "We want to make sure that one does not arise in the future,.
"From the public's perspective, it does provide a potential appearance of a conflict of interest. We want to make sure we retain the trust and the confidence of the public."
Reach Paula King at 925-779-7174 or firstname.lastname@example.org.