St. Paul seeks to amend its charter to grant inspectors the ability to issue administrative citations
On Monday, St. Paul’s Department of Safety and Inspections asked the St. Paul City Charter for the ability to issue administrative citations—fines—for breaking city ordinances. The ability to levy fines would be one of a variety of enforcement tools at a city inspector’s disposal. For example, some inspection divisions can suspend licenses while others can pursue criminal charges. The ability to issue fines, however, would be a uniform tool amongst the various inspection divisions.
According to the Director of St. Paul’s Department of Safety and Inspections, Ricardo Cervantes, a fine structure has not yet been developed but would vary depending on the violation. Cervantes also emphasized this power would allow the Department to avoid criminal sanctions.
Despite the positives highlighted by Cervantes, his proposal to the City Charter narrowly passed by a 5-4 vote. The matter will go before the City Council next, which will include public hearings and further discussion about the language within the proposed charter amendment. Cervantes said he hopes to have an outline of procedures for issuing citations, such as proper notice and time to correct violations, for the City Council to review by the end of April.
Critics are concerned about the scope of this power and breadth of the proposed amendment. But St. Paul would not be the only city to give its inspectors the ability to issue administrative citations—Minneapolis, Woodbury, and Duluth have already granted their inspectors this power. The amendment, if enacted, could be effective as early as July and may impact landlords, businesses, employers, and even property owners within the City of St. Paul.