Chief Special Master Abe Laeser, who has been informed that a search is being conducted for someone to replace him while a backlog of 400 cases are put on hold, recalled hearing what Halabi believes was a trumped-up charge against him.
Halabi appeared before me on a violation. He really did not have a valid complaint, based upon the evidence. His position was that he was constantly being selected for enforcement, and his neighbors were given a 'pass'. It is hard to resolve such issues at a single hearing, but there may have been a pattern that only the participants can prove.
Halabi disagrees with Laeser, and is retrieving the records of the
hearings in that case for transcription and legal analysis. He insists that his defense was valid; to wit, that placing two fans under the awning in his permitted space to temporarily protect them from a downpour is not specifically prohibited by the code. That charge was trumped up in specific response to an anonymous complaint he made. He emailed a copy of the anonymous complaint to compliance administrators and Commissioner Jerry Libbin. One of them passed the information along to a compliance officer who then informed the violator. The compliance officer excused the fact that he had fingered Halabi, stating that, after all, the email about the anonymous complaint was public record. That behavior is standard operating procedure although there is no reason whatsoever that even known informants should be identified except that compliance officers are afraid to take responsibility for their work and feel a need to blame someone else for doing their jobs, the tacit agreement with favored violators being that no citations will be issued unless someone complains. Halabi requested a rehearing based on
Laeser’s mistaken finding and on new evidence he wanted to bring forward, but his request was denied by Laeser’s clerk.
Instead of providing his attorney with a $5,000 retainer to appeal the $250 fine to circuit court at a total cost that might exceed $10,000, and even $100,000 if he had to appeal a circuit court decision, Halabi decided to conserve those funds to bring a broader suit if need be. Indeed, Halabi promises to be a fly in the unctuous public relations ointment. Morales finally met with him after refusing to do so for some time. Cardeno attended the meeting. A promise was made that compliance officers would enforce the sidewalk café code along Espanola Way
three times each week. That remains to be seen. However, an enraged man harassed Halabi’
s wife in front of the Flame, accusing Halabi of costing him money by not allowing him to set out his illegal tables; in other words, he was angry because he could no longer steal business due to law abiding businesses. And one of the worst violators was seen measuring the public right away in order to draw up plans to revise its permit, to include the chairs and tables set out illegally for two years. No doubt the city will bend over backwards to permit it now that Halabi has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue.