Ex-Benton City mayor must pay fine

BENTON CITY -- Bryan Robinson, former mayor of Benton City, has been ordered to pay $850 in fines and costs to city hall and obtain a permit before removing dirt from a ditch he filled without permission.

Robinson, 66, received the news Thursday in a half-inch thick ruling from the city's hearing examiner, Michael J. Rio.

"The city has shown that the ... filling of the ditch between September and December was a violation of the Benton City Municipal Code," Rio wrote. He also ordered Robinson to obtain a permit to "either leave the fill in place or to remove the fill at the direction of city hall" before Feb. 1.

Rio's ruling was dated Dec. 22, but not provided to Robinson until Thursday.

Rio, who is paid by the city to handle quasi-judicial matters involving development permits and land use in the city, relied on city ordinances and testimony as evidence in the dispute.

"I am not going to pay. I'm going to appeal to the Superior Court," Robinson said.

The fine and costs are due by Jan. 30, and Robinson has 21 days to appeal.

The dispute centers on about 200 feet of open ditch crossing Robinson's three acres that he wanted to fill in.

Robinson claims he applied for a permit as required by the city, but city officials wouldn't issue one to him because his application wasn't completed.

The situation escalated when the ditch, which is believed to be a remnant of an old irrigation system that goes under Highway 225 near Second Avenue at Robinson's property, was filled in about a month ago.

Robinson insists a friend of his, on two occasions, delivered the dirt and then later pushed it into the ditch while Robinson was out of town.

Rio said in his ruling it was "implausible and unbelievable" that the ditch was filled in without Robinson's direction.

According to Rio's ruling, Robinson testified at the Sept. 13 hearing he had contacted city employees and concluded there was no objection to him filling in the ditch. He also testified that had he known then he needed a permit he would have obtained one.

Tami Colley, the city code enforcement officer, also testified about sending a violation notice to Robinson after she saw the ditch partially filled in.

Rio offered and Robinson agreed to obtain the necessary permit within 60 days, which did not happen.

Robinson testified at a Dec. 13 hearing that he applied for a permit on Sept. 14, but was unable to satisfy the city with information requested to complete the process.

Rio noted in his ruling: "Mr. Robinson stated that the process bordered on the ridiculous, (and) the city should have streamlined the process for him."

Robinson's property is a designated special flood hazard area and the ditch leads to a culvert that goes under Highway 225.

Robinson was arrested last week while interfering with city employees who were trying to excavate the filled-in ditch and expose the opening to the culvert.

Robinson, who was booked on suspicion of disorderly conduct, is scheduled for a Jan. 13 court hearing.