Ex-lawmaker watches as his property is hauled away
A former Kansas lawmaker is in trouble with Wichita City Hall over tons of stuff stacked helter-skelter in his yard. The city moved in on Tuesday to clean it up.
Former Rep. Benny Boman says he was denied due process and his constitutional rights were violated when city inspectors and a police officer showed up with a skid loader crew and started hauling off the collected property stacked around his house at 1914 S. Euclid.
"They're crashing my gate and destroying my property," said Boman, as the loader scooped up another stack of wood he had planned to burn in the wood stove he uses to heat his house.
"It's private property," Boman said. "That's why I served in the Army, to protect constitutional rights."
A city inspector on scene would not comment, saying she wasn't authorized to talk to the news media.
Boman, a Republican from District 95, served in the Legislature from early 2011 to early 2013. He took the seat from Democrat Melanie Barnes in the 2010 election and lost it two years later to Democrat Tom Sawyer.
As the skid loader scooped up piles of debris, Boman skipped around his woodpile separating split logs from salvaged construction lumber, so the cut firewood wouldn't wind up in the large roll-off dumpster parked in front of his house.
That dumpster was filled before noon with debris just from Boman's side yard. Workers were waiting for another dumpster to be delivered before starting to tackle the backyard.
The removal work was under the authority of an administrative search warrant signed Monday by Sedgwick County District Judge John Kisner.
The warrant authorized officials to enter the outdoor areas of the property and haul off any "tree waste, dead trees, building material, windows and doors, hoses, barrels, auto parts, scrap metal, lumber, plastic tubs, tarps, metal, boxes, junk (and) trash."
Boman said he has been in and out of the city-run municipal court about his property for about a year. He said he planned to appeal to the district court and expected he'd get a chance to speak there before the city could move in and junk his property.
His friend, longtime Republican activist John Todd, has been helping him clean up the front yard. Todd went to court with Boman on June 6 and said the municipal judge had expressed satisfaction with the pace of the cleanup effort and promised an additional 30 days.
Todd said he understood the need to clean up areas visible from the street, but felt the city overstepped by clearing the backyard, which is surrounded on all sides by a tall wooden privacy fence.
Boman said he was surprised when the crew showed up about 8:15 a.m. Monday.
"The judge (Kisner) didn't give me a hearing on anything," he said. "I didn't know anything was happening until they showed up on my doorstep this morning and said, we're going to impose this on you."
Neighbors had mixed reactions to the sudden cleanup.
Jim Edgar, 89, lives in a single-wide mobile home a few feet north of Boman's garage. He said he had called the Fire Department and reported Boman as a hazard.
"His garage is full of trash all the way up to the top," Edgar said. "I sleep back there and if it catches fire, I sure hope I can get out in time."
His back steps look out over piles of stuff stacked head-high in Boman's backyard. A few feet from Edgar's door was a stack of weather-faded yard signs from Boman's legislative campaigns.
Beverly Heath, Boman's next-door neighbor to the south, sat on her front porch watching the cleanup with joy.
"I'm glad they're doing something about that mess," she said.
She said not only had he piled up junk on his property, he'd encroached on hers and she has the deed to prove it.
Boman scoffed at that.
"That lady thinks she owns the whole neighborhood," he said. "She's got a problem."
Boman had his supporters among the neighbors.
Don Simpson, who lives across the street, said he thought "the city ought to slack off."
Simpson said he could understand officials being concerned about the view from the street. But the way he sees it, the backyard is Boman's to do with what he pleases.
"I understand he's got a problem that needs to be straightened up a bit," Simpson said. "But he's 83, 84 years old. He can't clean up in two or three days what's taken 40 years to accomplish."