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Metro Council member loses property dispute case, ordered to pay $57K in damages

1 year 2 months 3 weeks ago Monday, March 27 2023 Mar 27, 2023 March 27, 2023 6:27 PM March 27, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - After failing to show up for court twice, an East Baton Rouge Metro councilman has been ordered to pay restitution and remove property in violation of parish code.

A judge has ordered Councilman Cleve Dunn to pay his neighbor, Eugene Michelli, $57,000 in damages. The property in violation of parish code includes a driveway, a fence and a pool house kitchen. The fence has been awarded to Michelli since it was built on his property.

"We're excited; I'm just trying to get this burden off my back. We just hope that he'll settle," Michelli said.

The dispute dates back to October 2020, when Dunn started remodeling the home that is outside of his district. The property is near Millerville Road and S. Flannery Road in Sherwood Manor Subdivision, district eight. Michelli says the property improvements became the source of his stress that bled his pocketbook dry.

"You didn't help nobody here because you're not a councilman here you're a councilman on the other side of town, are you helping them?" said Michelli

Michelli said Dunn's property improvements washed away his land, pushing dirt onto the sidewalk and into the street. He also says it caused his home to flood during the May 2021 storm. Michelli installed sump-pumps to prevent it from happening again.

In September 2021, Dunn told 2 On Your Side that he's not responsible for his neighbor's flooding concerns. The city-parish government took issue with the property improvements, failing him on multiple inspections. The inspections noted violations with the fence, a pool house that's built too close to the servitude, and a driveway that's too wide. The work was not permitted. Dunn applied for a permit but has been unable to provide the correct material to the parish.

In November 2022, Michelli told 2 On Your Side that it cost him the sale of his home.

Michelli says he attempted to reason with his neighbor but communication stopped. Michelli sued Dunn in December 2021 over the issues. The case was continued several times, two judges recused themselves, then the third judge retired before it ended up in the hands of Judge Beau Higginbotham. Dunn didn't show up to a hearing on March 14, then missed his contempt of court hearing on March 23. The judge awarded the case to Michelli.

Judge Higginbotham didn't provide a deadline for Dunn to respond.

Brittany Weiss called Dunn Thursday and he suggested contacting his lawyer, Representative Edmond Jordan. Jordan did not respond to phone calls or a text message requesting comment. Jordan filed new paperwork within the courts on March 27.

Dunn was seen walking from his car to the house on Monday. He did not speak to WBRZ.

The City-Parish said from the get-go that it works with property owners in good faith to address code violations. Michelli is wondering how much longer that "good faith" will continue.

"We just want to the city to do something," he said.

On Monday the parish said it will meet with the conflict council in the near future to discuss the outcome of the recent civil trial involving Councilman Dunn and Donna & Eugene Michelli. Regarding the ongoing permitting issue, the City-Parish has set an April 19 deadline to provide the remaining information. The city says if a final judgement orders Dunn to tear down his property, that could change things.

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