Former Central Point mayor cited for unsightly grounds

CENTRAL POINT — Attempting to remedy what city officials say has been an ongoing code violation, former Mayor Rusty McGrath was cited for accumulation of junk on his Freeman Road property last week.

McGrath, who served as a council member and mayor for a number of years in the 1990s, is a frequent critic of the city's management and says he feels code enforcement officer Ron Barnett was singling him out for his views.

McGrath declined to comment about how he would respond to the pair of $250 citations he received Tuesday, pending advice from his attorney.

The former mayor said his property, zoned commercial, provides storage for work trucks, tool boxes and other commercial equipment he had been trying to sell but that his property was not unsightly or covered in trash.

"They gave me two tickets. One was for misuse of yard sale, whatever that is, and one for creating junk which is my tool box," McGrath said.

"We've got people living in trailers on the street and all sorts of things "¦ pickups filled with garbage. And for some reason this (code enforcement officer) Ron Barnett just gets to pick and choose whoever he wants to pick on. Then he thinks its funny there's been lots of complaints about him and the way he does his job.

"It's a real shame the city's citing me for what they call junk and what's real expensive equipment and tool boxes but you drive by public works on 10th Street and they've got piles of junk sitting all over. There's even a big old couch that's been sitting there for months."

Barnett declined to comment on McGrath's attack on his job performance other than to say McGrath's property has drawn numerous complaints over the past year.

Police Chief Jon Zeliff took exception to McGrath's accusations of the city singling him out.

"This is none other than Mr. McGrath's preferred tactic of deflecting attention from himself by impugning the character of others, while we have nothing to hide," Zeliff said.

Zeliff pointed out that, while his department "makes every effort" to assist property owners with code violations, McGrath had not attempted to request help with resolving the problem or to request an extension of time before citations were issued.

"The whole idea is to try to get people to try to comply. We're not statistics-driven. We're not revenue-driven. We have letters on file to Mr. McGrath and his wife, offering help if he needed it," Zeliff said. "Unfortunately one of the things we're not is a good-old-boys system like Mr. McGrath is accustomed to."

McGrath noted he had taken several council members around town to point out what he said were other code violations repeatedly ignored by the city.

Councilwoman Kay Harrison confirmed she had driven around town with the former mayor and appreciated his pointing out code violations but hoped he would work on his own property issues as well.

"Basically he's trying to justify that he should get away with it because everybody else is getting away with it, kind of like an 8-year-old or a 10-year-old might do," Harrison said. "I don't think Ron Barnett is picking on him. We just did a case where we put a lien on somebody's property so we could clean it up and there are a lot of cases like that. We just have to get to them one at a time."

She added, "Rusty always says he wants to be a good citizen and the best way to do that is to be a good example. Yeah, there are other people that have problems with their yard and not obeying the rules, too "¦ but if you want to be a good citizen you need to step up and be a good example. I don't want to make an example out of him with this. I want him to make an example out of himself by doing the right thing."

The city and McGrath go to court Dec. 5 to hash out the matter.

McGrath said he has a host of concerns he'll be discussing in coming weeks after consulting with his attorney.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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