(A)   (1)   Any person, firm or corporation who violates any provision of this code for which another penalty is not specifically provided shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor. The penalty which may be imposed for any crime which is a misdemeanor under this code, including state statutes specifically adopted by reference, shall be a sentence of not more than 90 days or a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.
      (2)   Any person, firm or corporation who violates any provision of this code, including state statutes specifically adopted by reference, which is designated to be a petty misdemeanor shall, upon conviction be guilty of a petty misdemeanor. The penalty which may be imposed for any petty offense which is a petty misdemeanor shall be a sentence of a fine of not more than $300.
      (3)   Pursuant to M.S. § 631.48, as it may be amended from time to time, in either the case of a misdemeanor or a petty misdemeanor, the costs of prosecution may be added. A separate offense shall be deemed committed upon each day during which a violation occurs or continues.
      (4)   The failure of any officer or employee of the city to perform any official duty imposed by this code shall not subject the officer or employee to the penalty imposed for a violation.
      (5)   In addition to any penalties provided for in this section, if any person, firm or corporation fails to comply with any provision of this code, the Council or any city official designated by it, may institute appropriate proceedings at law or at equity to restrain, correct or abate the violation.
   (B)   (1)   Purpose. The City Council determines that there is a need for alternative methods of enforcing the city codes. While criminal fines and penalties have been the most frequent enforcement mechanism, there are certain negative consequences for both the city and the accused. The delay inherent in that system does not ensure prompt resolution. Citizens resent being labeled as criminals for violations of administrative regulations. The higher burden of proof and the potential of incarceration do not appear appropriate for most administrative violations. The criminal process does not always regard city code violations as being important. Accordingly, the City Council finds the use of administrative citations and the imposition of civil penalties is a legitimate and necessary alternative method of enforcement. This method of enforcement is in addition to any other legal remedy that may be pursued for city code violations.
      (2)   Alternative methods of enforcement. This administrative enforcement procedure seeks to gain compliance with certain provisions of the city code prior to any formal criminal or civil court action. The administrative hearing process provided for in this section shall be in addition to any other legal or equitable remedy available to the city for city code violations. If the final adjudication in the administrative penalty procedure is a finding of no violation, then the city may not prosecute a criminal violation in district court based on the same set of facts. This does not preclude the city from pursuing an administrative penalty or a criminal conviction for a violation of the same provision of the city code based on a different set of facts. A different date of violation shall constitute a different set of facts and a separate offense.
      (3)   Authority to issue order to correct letters and administrative citations. The following city employees and agents are authorized to issue order to correct letters and administrative citations for violations of the city codes:
         (a)   Licensed peace officers and community service officers of the city’s Police Department;
         (b)   Building Inspectors;
         (c)   Animal Control Officer;
         (d)   City Engineer;
         (e)   Planning and Zoning Administrator;
         (f)   Fire Chief or Fire Inspector of the city’s Fire Department; and
         (g)   Housing Inspector; and
         (h)   An Appointed Authority of the City Council.
      (4)   Administrative offenses; schedules of fines and fees.
         (a)   A violation of any provision of the city code or a violation of the terms and conditions of a city approval, including permits and licenses, required and granted under this code is an administrative offense which may be subject to an administrative citation and civil penalties pursuant to this division (B). Each day a violation exists constitutes a separate offense.
         (b)   An administrative offense may be subject to a civil penalty.
         (c)   The City Council shall adopt a Fee Schedule Ordinance of recommended fines for offenses initiated by administrative citation. The City Council is not bound by that schedule when a matter is appealed for administrative review.
         (d)   The City Council may adopt fees as set forth in the Fee Schedule Ordinance to be paid to Administrative Hearing Officers.
         (e)   The City Council shall adopt written standard operating procedures for administering the administrative citation program.
      (5)   Order to correct; administrative citations. Upon the reasonable belief that an administrative offense has occurred, the city officials listed in division (B)(3) above shall serve on the violator an order to correct the violation. If compliance is not achieved within the timeline prescribed in the order to correct the violation, the official is authorized to issue an administrative citation. An administrative citation shall be presented in person or by first class mail to the person responsible for the violation. Service shall be deemed complete upon depositing the citation in the U.S. mail, properly addressed to last known address of the person to be served and postage prepaid. The citation shall state the following:
         (a)   Date, time and nature of the offense;
         (b)   The relevant portion of the city code that was allegedly violated;
         (c)   The amount of the scheduled civil fine, and the manner for paying the fine;
         (d)   The city code violation and the amount of the administrative civil penalty may be contested to be heard before an independent Hearing Officer by notifying the City Clerk/Treasurer or designated representative in writing within 14 days of the date of the citation in accordance with division (B)(9) below; and
         (e)   Failure to pay the administrative civil penalty may result in it being assessed against the property as provided in M.S. Ch. 429, as it may be amended from time to time.
      (6)   Exceptions to issuance of order to correct letter. For violations of the following, the city shall not be required to issue a compliance letter and may proceed directly to the issuance of an administrative citation as provided in division (B)(5) above:
         (a)   Repeat offender. If the same owner commits a subsequent violation within 12 months after a compliance letter has been issued for the same or similar offense;
         (b)   License violations. For any license violations, including not having a license;
         (c)   Traffic or parking violations. For traffic or parking violations issued;
         (d)   Animal violations. For any violations of § 152.076 of this code of ordinances; and
         (e)   Noise violations. For any violation of § 152.071 of this code of ordinances.
      (7)   Reasonable extensions. Following service of the order to correct, the city shall attempt to work with the owner to resolve the violation, including, but not limited to, responding to reasonable extensions for compliance. A property owner may request an extension to come into compliance, which may be granted or denied by the city. If an extension to come into compliance is requested and granted, and the property owner does not come into compliance by the extension date, an administrative citation shall be issued and the administrative fine imposed with the citation for the violation shall not be rescinded. Additionally, a request for an extension to the compliance deadline shall constitute an admission to the violation and a waiver of a right to request a hearing under division (B)(9) below.
      (8)   Payment of penalty and correction of violation. If the owner pays the administrative civil penalty and corrects the city code violation, no further action will be taken against the owner or the owner’s real property for that same violation under the same set of facts. If payment is made, but correction is not accomplished, a subsequent administrative citation may be issued, criminal proceedings may be initiated, or any other proceedings or remedies available in order to enforce correction of the violation. If no payment is made and no correction of the violation is made, the city may assess the administrative civil penalty against the property owner pursuant to M.S. Ch. 429, as it may be amended from time to time, issue a subsequent administrative citation and commence a new administrative process, initiate criminal proceedings or initiate other enforcement action authorized by law, or a combination hereof.
      (9)   Request for hearing. An owner or occupant may contest the administrative citation and the amount of the fine by requesting a hearing, in writing, within 14 days of the date of the citation, to the City Clerk/Treasurer. A hearing request must be made in writing and executed by the property owner or person with an ownership interest in the property. It must minimally state the name and mailing address of that person, the person’s relationship to the property involved and a brief statement why the citation is in error and a hearing is being requested.
      (10)   Administrative hearing procedures.
         (a)   Hearing Officers. The City Council will periodically approve a list of lawyers and/or arbitrators, from which the City Council will select a Hearing Officer to hear and determine a matter for which the hearing is requested. The person who has requested the hearing has the right to request, no later than 15 days before the date of the hearing, that the assigned Hearing Officer be removed from the case. One such request for each case will be granted by the City Council. A subsequent request must be directed to the assigned Hearing Officer, who will decide whether the Hearing Officer is unable to fairly and objectively review the case. If such a finding is made, the Hearing Officer shall remove himself or herself from the case, and the City Council shall assign another Hearing Officer. The Hearing Officer is not a judicial officer, but is a public officer as defined by M.S. § 609.415, as it may be amended from time to time. The Hearing Officer shall not be a current or former employee or elected official of the city.
         (b)   Notice of hearing. Notice of the hearing must be served in person or by first class mail to the property owner no less than 30 days in advance of the scheduled hearing, unless a shorter time is accepted by both parties. Service shall be deemed complete upon depositing the notice of hearing in the U.S. mail, properly addressed to last known address of the person to be served and postage prepaid.
         (c)   Payment for cost of hearing. The cost of the hearing shall be borne solely by the non-prevailing party. The city shall provide an estimate of the cost of the hearing at the time of the request for hearing. The City Council has the authority to reduce the non-prevailing party’s costs where that party can demonstrate indigence by clear and convincing evidence. Proof of indigence can be demonstrated by the party’s receipt of means tested governmental benefits or a demonstrated lack of assets or current income. The proof shall be presented to the City Council for determination subsequent to the hearing. However, the Hearing Officer at the time of the hearing shall make specific findings as to whether or not the party is indigent with said findings presented to the City Council. In all cases, where the party requesting the hearing is unable to attend and fails to request a continuance of the hearing at least 48 hours in advance of the scheduled hearing, all costs incurred by the city attributable to the hearing shall be charged to the requesting party.
         (d)   Hearing procedures.
            1.   At the hearing, the parties shall have the opportunity to present testimony and question any witnesses, but strict rules of evidence shall not apply.
            2.   The Hearing Officer shall record the hearing and receive testimony and exhibits and the full record of the hearing shall be kept. The Hearing Officer shall receive and give weight to evidence, including hearsay evidence, which possesses probative value commonly accepted by reasonable and prudent people in the conduct of their affairs.
         (e)   Authority of Hearing Officer. The Hearing Officer has the authority to determine that a violation did or did not occur, to dismiss a citation or impose the scheduled fine or to reduce, stay or waive a scheduled fine either unconditionally or upon compliance with appropriate conditions. When imposing a penalty for a violation, the Hearing Officer may consider any or all of the following:
            1.   The duration of the violation;
            2.   The frequency or recurrence of the violation;
            3.   The seriousness of the violation;
            4.   The history of the violation;
            5.   The violator’s conduct after issuance of the notice of hearing;
            6.   The good faith effort of the violator to comply;
            7.   The economic impact of the penalty on the violator;
            8.   The impact of the violation upon the community; and
            9.   Any other factors appropriate to a just result.
         (f)   Fines for continuing violations.
            1.   The Hearing Officer may exercise discretion to impose a fine for more than one day of a continuing violation, but only on a finding that the violation caused a serious threat of harm to the public health, safety or welfare, or the accused intentionally and unreasonably refused to comply with the code requirement.
            2.   The Hearing Officer’s decision and supporting reasons for continuing violations must be in writing.
         (g)   Decision of the Hearing Officer.
            1.   The Hearing Officer shall issue a decision in writing to both parties within ten days of the hearing.
            2.   Any fines or penalties imposed must be paid no later than 30 days of the date of the Hearing Officer’s order. If the fine is not paid, the city may assess the civil penalty against the owner’s property pursuant to M.S. Ch. 429, as it may be amended from time to time.
            3.   If the Hearing Officer determines that no violation occurred, the city may not proceed with criminal prosecution for the same act or conduct under the same set of facts.
            4.   The decision of the Hearing Officer is final and may only be appealed to the state’s Court of Appeals by petitioning for a writ of certiorari pursuant to M.S. § 606.01, as it may be amended from time to time.
         (h)   Failure to attend.
            1.   Failure to attend the hearing constitutes a waiver of the violator’s rights to an administrative hearing and an admission of the violation. A Hearing Officer may waive this result upon good cause shown. Examples of “good cause” are: death or incapacitating illness of the accused or an immediate family member; a court order requiring the accused to appear for another hearing at the same time; or lack of proper service of the citation or notice of the hearing as determined by the Hearing Officer. “Good cause” does not include forgetfulness or intentional delay. For the schedule of fines and fees, see the ordinance adopting a schedule of fines and fees on file in the city offices.
            2.   After three letters are sent, alternative method of administratively enforcing offense and violation will proceed. Fines will compound.
(Ord. passed 7-14-2009; Ord. 320, passed 5-13-2014)