Lawsuit filed over city building inspector's findings

The City of Sunnyside and local property owner Tom Scotto are currently at a standstill as they await an independent engineer's assessment of a house at 322 West Edison Ave.

Scotto filed a lawsuit against Sunnyside Building Inspector Mike Storms and the City of Sunnyside claiming that he was denied due process of law when Storms ousted his tenants, claiming his newly acquired rental home was a dangerous dwelling.

Scotto filed an injunction seeking damages for civil rights violations, claiming that he incurred unnecessary legal fees, lost rental income and business and/or personal reputation in Sunnyside.

Both sides came together late last week and agreed that no more injunctions would be filed against the city until an engineer inspected the property, coming up with an independent assessment of the rental.

"They agreed to leave this guy alone and go and get some studies done," said Scotto's attorney, J.J. Sandlin of Sandlin Law Firm in Zillah.

Sandlin said he intends to leave the suit in the court system, but not file more injunctions.

Storms said that the temporary restraining order was to be dropped this week.

Sandlin said his client is not claiming negligence on behalf of the city, but rather that his client's rights to due process in law were violated.

"You don't have to wait and have the city council make a decision," said Sandlin. "You can go and get it before a judge and a judge will sign orders."

The lawsuit stems from a recent rental home purchase on Edison Avenue. The home was purchased from the bank for $60,000, said Sandlin. He added that both the bank and Scotto had inspections done and found the property acceptable.

Scotto purchased the home and was having some repairs made when Storms allegedly entered the home and began "kicking here and kicking there," said Sandlin.

Shortly after the inspection, the tenants were evicted by the city.

Scotto alleges that Storms attempted a "shakedown" for money, something that Storms adamantly denies.

"As far as Mr. Scotto's accusations go, there's no truth to them," said Storms.

"We feel and believe there are some upgrades that need to be made to make it a safe structure," said Storms. "He purchased the home and had a home inspection done and we felt those areas should have been addressed. I fully understand. If I had a home inspection I would hope it would cover all of this."

Storms said part of the issue is that the ceiling of the home is sagging.

"At some point years ago somebody finished part of the attic area," said Storms. "Ceiling joists are not designed to carry additional load."

He explained that wood will only bend so far before it breaks.

"That's our concern. We just don't want the house to be unsafe," said Storms.

Sandlin said he is still awaiting a list of problems with the home from the city of Sunnyside.

The house was first inspected by Storms after a city employee noticed work going on at the house and he began looking into whether or not a building permit was needed for the repairs being made, according to Sandlin.

The contractor working on the house was not addressing any of the concerns the city has with the building, said Storms.

He said the issue with Scotto is one the city has 20 or 30 times a year with other property owners in the town.

"Our concern is for the safety of the citizens," Storms added.

Sandlin said the agreement reached by City Attorney Mark Kunkler and himself was that the tenants would be able to stay in the home for now and that an independent inspection would be completed.

"If the house is sound, then they're going to say never mind," said Sandlin. "If the house isn't sound, then Mr. Scotto will have to fix it. In the meantime they aren't going to be kicking out tenants without writing down what the problems are."


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