Routine check leads to evictions

Gary Molden, 19, had no idea that in the middle of the semester he would be looking for a place to live. The Palmetto North resident was given notice by Florida A&M University’s housing department after a routine apartment inspection last Tuesday, went awry.

Molden, a sophomore business administration student from Birmingham, Ala., was one of many residents, (the exact number is yet to be ascertained), who were given eviction notices after the housing department staff discovered illegal paraphernalia during a routine apartment inspection.

“The resident directors just went through and started sweeping,” Molden said. “I guess more or less they were looking for guns because of the recent violence on campus.”

Molden said the residential directors and police ended up finding a plethora of things, which he did not specify.

The day after the inspection, Molden said he received a letter of eviction ordering him to vacate the premises by Oct. 24. According to Molden, he was not the only one to receive a written notice.

“I saw stacks of papers,” Molden said. “My RD had a stack. I went to speak to the head of housing and he had another stack of letters.”

The director of housing at FAMU, Isaac Brundage, signed the eviction notices.

Brundage, when contacted, said the Office of Housing and Residence Life routinely conducts checks throughout various campus housing developments.

“The Office of Housing and Residence carried out health and safety checks on several of the residence halls, inclusive of Gibbs Hall, the Paddy Foote Complex-A and B, and Palmetto North,” Brundage said.

The resident assistant, who is sometimes assisted by the resident director of the complex, spearheads these inspections, according to Brundage. However, he explained that health and safety checks are done by “professional staff members of the University.”

Brundage added that the police are not involved unless illegal items are found during the inspection. The police are brought in to “enforce the law.”

According to an incident report filed by an officer at the FAMU Police Department this is exactly what happened.

At approximately 4 p.m. on Oct. 16, an officer from FAMUPD was called to assist William Johnson, resident director of Palmetto North, at the complex to investigate an alleged drug offense.

Lt. Norman Rollins of FAMUPD said the officer was called in because a Ziploc bag containing marijuana was found, according to the report the officer filed. In total there were two drug offenses committed.

Rollins said under such circumstances it is not unusual for the police to be called in.

“They [housing staff] actually go in, do normal housing inspections and if they find anything that is in violation of the housing contract, action is taken,” Rollins said. “The police are called when anything illegal is found.”

Rollins, however, said the level at which the wrongdoer is dealt with depends on what is found, and circumstances surrounding the find.

“It depends on how much of a drug is found, whether the individual was selling or distributing,” Rollins said. “We will then investigate and bring people in here to ask them some questions.”

The FAMUPD officer said that if the drug was for recreational use the case would be turned over to the university’s judiciary. Rollins also said that in most cases housing would evict the involved parties.

The lieutenant said FAMUPD has stepped up ID checks and surveillance of the campus as a result of the recent upsurge in violence in the area.

“We’re doing it as a precautionary measure,” Rollins said.

Rollins mentioned that checks by the housing department and regular policing do help to minimize incidents of crime. It also prevents non-residents from occupying university housing. An incident that, Rollins said, occurred last year at Palmetto.

“Last year they had non-residents living in Palmetto, some were fugitives,” Rollins said. “We had to call in U.S marshals to deal with them.”

Rollins also said these fugitives were participating in various illegal activities.

Brundage said that health and safety checks would continue to be a part of the normal process of the housing department. The 10-15 staff members that participated in the Oct. 16 inspection will continue to be among those seeking to eradicate illegal activity inside student housing.

Because of confidential reasons, Brundage declined to comment on the number of residents given notices and, if any, additional measures that might be taken against these residents by the university.

“Some students are going through the housing and university judicial processes, and this information is confidential,” Brundage pointed out.

Meanwhile, Molden, who denies any wrongdoing, will have to look for a new place to call home.

The saying ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ is quite applicable in this case, as according to Brundage, the soon to be empty apartments will be leased to other students.