You've got mail ... ?
Update: Police delivered a summons to Jim Spodick's home last year, according to Sgt. Martin Pavilonis, a spokesman for the department. It's an important distinction because officers are routinely used to delivered subpoenas and summons, he said.
But Spodick said police went above and beyond to serve him. When they came to his house they waited for him at the bottom of a snowy driveway. On another day they tried to deliver a summons to the Raytown Roadhouse when it was closed. Officers yanked on the door so hard it set off the building's alarm service. They then asked the security company to call Spodick and have him meet them at the bar/restaurant. Spodick said it was basically a trap for police to deliver him a summons.
Original post: City departments have used the Racine Police Department at least twice in the past year to deliver mail to area residents who had made damaging claims against the city.
Last December, uniformed city police officers delivered a letter to Jim Spodick at his home in Caledonia. Later, officers dressed in the department's drug unit uniforms delivered a second letter to the Raytown Roadhouse, Spodick's former business, during business hours. Both visits came after Spodick filed a $650,000 claim against the city over the Wilmanor Apartments on West Sixth Street.
More recently, uniformed police officers delivered a letter to a city employee's home after he turned whistleblower over concerns about potential lead paint violations at city-owned homes. The officers showed up at Bill Bielefeldt's Mount Pleasant home after 11 p.m. to deliver a letter ordering him to stay away from the city-owned homes. Bielefeldt, who is suspended from his job, had reported the potential lead paint violations to state's Department of Health Services.
Spodick and Bielefeldt said they both felt the city was sending them a message.
"It was totally intimidation," Spodick said.
Sgt. Martin Pavilonis, a spokesperson for the Racine Police Department, said it's rare for police officers to be used as mail carriers for city departments.
"It's infrequent, it's not typical at all," he said.
Pavilonis said he wasn't aware of a procedure for a city department to request officers to deliver mail.
"It's not something we do regularly," he said.
City vs. Spodick
Police showed up outside of Spodick's home about a month after the City Council denied his $650,000 claim regarding work he did on the Wilmanor Apartments on West 6th Street.
Spodick recalls it was a snowy day and the officers couldn't drive up his Caledonia home's driveway. They waited for him at the end of the driveway and eventually gave the letter for UNIT violations to his mother-in-law, who came out to ask why they were there.
Spodick also recalled two uniformed drug officers, dressed in full black uniforms, walked into the Raytown Roadhouse around 10 or 11 p.m. to deliver a complaint about tuckpointing. With people in the restaurant and bar, Spodick ushered the officers back into the office area to avoid a disruption. But customers kidded him later, asking what he did wrong to bring the police in.
"It was impossible not to notice them," Spodick said. "They walked through the whole place."
The tax complaint against Spodick was dismissed in court. He's still working with the city to resolve a series of UNIT violations for his building at the corner of Park Avenue and Sixth Street, which houses the Park 6 night club. Spodick's $650,000 claim against the city for the Wilmanor Apartment deal is now a full-blown lawsuit.
Spodick said he believed the police appearances were part of a city effort to harass him for filing the lawsuit.
"Every time I went in (to talk with the city) there was something else," he said. "I've been to court eight or nine times in the last year."
City vs. Bielefeldt
Two police officers visited Bielefeldt's Mount Pleasant home after 11 p.m. on Sept. 17 to deliver a letter from City Development Director Brian O'Connell. The letter instructed Bielefeldt to stay away from city-owned homes that are part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which is being funded by $3.4 million in federal stimulus.
The letter came shortly after Bielefeldt reported the city for potential lead paint violations at the work sites. After the tip, state investigators visited the homes and are looking into Bielefeldt's claims.
Pavilonis said officers had made two earlier attempts to deliver the letter to Bielefeldt's home on Sept. 17, but were unsuccessful. They finally got Bielefeldt at home sometime after 11 p.m., he said. Pavilonis said no one directed the officers to deliver the letter late at night, and City Development Director Brian O'Connell said his department did not instruct the letter to be delivered late.
The police officers' appearance was intimidating, Bielefeldt said. The next day police drove past again and Bielefeldt's wife told him to hurry and get ready because she thought he was going to be arrested.
Both Bielefeldt and Spodick wondered how police had time to deliver mail, and why the city would want to pay officers to do so.
"What are they doing pulling officers off the street to be mailmen?" Bielefeldt said.
Pavilonis reiterated incidents of the city asking officers to deliver letters are rare.
"Being asked by some other department to deliver mail I would say is a circumstance that's not typical," he said. "It's not done routinely."
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