A NEIGHBORLY FEUD APPEARS TO TRIGGER AN INTERNAL JSO INVESTIGATION

February 4, 2015
by
5 mins read

Disputes between neighbors are as old as civilization itself. We’ve all had them, or known of someone who has, or heard horror stories. In a sense, this story is no different: two neighbors quarreling over felled trees and damaged property and a busted septic tank and allegedly stolen electricity and water.

But this one also appears to have sparked an internal Jacksonville’s Sheriff’s Office investigation into one of the warring factions, JSO Officer Chad Harris — whose wife, Katy Harris, is an assistant general counsel for the city of Jacksonville.

Jim Weeks, who lives in the Fort Caroline area, contacted Folio Weekly several weeks ago to complain about the Harrises’ alleged misdeeds and, more important, the JSO’s alleged unwillingness to treat his complaints with the seriousness they deserved.

As he explained in an email to a Folio Weekly writer [all sic]: “A Jacksonville police officer purchased the home next door and refurbished it. During the construction, I caught him, on video tape, stealing electricity and water from us. We reported it to JSO and they opened an investigation. Today we received word back about the investigation from the ethics department that states: ‘It was determined that the complaints against [officers’ name] are civil not criminal.’ So, according to JSO, utility theft is a civil matter and not criminal when it involves one of their officers.”

The Harrises moved next door to Jim and Linda Weeks, who have lived in their house on Spanish Bluff Drive since about 1998, though Linda’s grandparents built it in the mid-’50s, in February 2014. According to Jim Weeks, the problems began soon after. The Harrises’ contractor, he says, cut down several large trees that fell onto Weeks’ property, one of which damaged the septic tank; another is still lying on his property. He says he found the Harrises’ construction workers in his garage, and that they either used the river behind the houses as a toilet or walked to neighbors’ homes to ask to use their bathrooms because they had nowhere to go at the worksite. He says the contractors damaged the street in front of his house. He says the workers constantly blocked his driveway when they parked their trucks, and one of the contractors ran into and damaged his retaining wall.

And he says the Harrises ignored him and his wife when they complained.

But the biggest alleged problem, the supposedly criminal one, is the stolen utilities. Jim Weeks says he gave the Harrises’ contractors permission to use both his water and electricity for a very short time. He allowed them to use his electricity for three hours to cut down a tree that could have damaged the power line to the Harrises’ home, he says. But three weeks later, Weeks says, he came home and saw the power cord still plugged into his outside outlet, though he can’t say for sure whether it had been there the whole time or whether the Harrises had been using it. (Weeks uses the JEA’s average monthly billing plan, so his monthly payments rarely vary.) He also says he allowed the contractors to use his water to mix cement to repair the retaining wall they damaged, but he discovered they were still using his water two weeks later.

Weeks became so frustrated that he called the JSO to complain about what he considered theft of his utilities, trespassing and damage to his property. But the JSO officers who initially investigated the case, as well as the detective, Juan Santiago, shrugged it off as a civil matter. In so many words: If you think they stole from you, take them to court.

Weeks saw this as an example of cops protecting their own.

When Folio Weekly asked Santiago why he thought this situation was a civil rather than a criminal matter, Santiago declined to answer, saying “it’s still an open investigation.” The JSO’s public information office confirmed that the department is investigating Chad Harris, but it would not say what about or release any information about the investigation. Still, from Santiago’s refusal to comment, it appears that the JSO is still conducting an active investigation into Weeks’ allegations.

In an interview, Katy Harris said she knew nothing about any JSO investigation into her husband and called it “sad” that a reporter was asking questions about this situation.

Katy Harris also said she and her husband bought the house from Jim Weeks’ brother: “The houses were owned by two brothers; we got the easement recorded.”

That statement does not appear to be accurate.

Jim Weeks’ brother, Bradley Weeks, has been dead since 2010 and never owned the home. The Harrises bought the house last February. No member of the Weeks family ever owned the Harrises’ home, the Weeks say.

When she and her husband bought their house a year ago, Katy Harris says, it needed a lot of work; no one had lived in it for a year prior. They cut down some trees to get a better view of the St. Johns River. One of them fell onto the Weeks’ property and busted their septic tank, according to three engineers who came out to inspect the septic tank and later spoke to Folio Weekly. Katy Harris counters that the tip of the Weeks’ tank was on her property, and claims that people had been complaining about it leaking for years.

The first part of that statement is true: Jim Weeks admits that the tip of the septic tank indeed crossed the property line, but says he paid a lot of money to have it moved back onto his property. The second part, however, does not appear to be correct.

The Duval County Health Department, which is almost always notified of septic tank complaints, has only one on file against the Weeks — made by the Harrises, in April, after the tree was cut down. Jim Weeks says he’s never received a citation.

It’s worth mentioning that, within his neighborhood, Jim Weeks is apparently known to complain about things. For instance, in a police report dated Aug. 11, 2014, Officer J.E. Wiggins writes that James Bennett, also Weeks’ neighbor, says that Weeks constantly lodges complaints to him: “I spoke with the complainants [sic] other neighbor … [who] stated the complainant is always in ongoing disputes with him.”

As to Jim Weeks’ complaint that the contractors had damaged his street, Bennett said that “most if not all the roadway has been damaged for several years,” according to the police report. “… The witness showed how several slabs of the roadway is [sic] only approximately half-an-inch thick and can easily be picked up.”

And last week, Jim Weeks decided he didn’t want this story told after all. In a series of emails, phone calls and visits to Folio Weekly‘s office, he implored the magazine’s editor and a reporter to kill the story, and even offered to “compensate Folio for any time and money spent.” He told a reporter that he feared “retaliation,” and told the editor he was “frightened that we are going to be drawn into a lawsuit that we cannot afford to defend.”

After his requests to spike the story were rebuffed, Weeks relented. “I feel much, much better,” Weeks said in an email. “I admit that I became frightened — not because I had lost confidence in my position, but because I thought you had misunderstood some things. … My wife also reassured me that I am absolutely doing the right thing. I have nothing to fear. I am telling the truth. I have been honest.”

Folio is your guide to entertainment and culture around and near Jacksonville, Florida. We cover events, concerts, restaurants, theatre, sports, art, happenings, and all things about living and visiting Jax. Folio serves more than two million readers across Jacksonville and Northeast Florida, including St. Augustine, The Beaches, and Fernandina.

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