By Ann Rowland
While Sergeant First Class Jesus Jimenez was on active duty in Iraq four years ago, the County of Miami-Dade (Florida) demolished his home for code violations. The empty lot which once held his home now holds a tattered American flag and a sign reading “Our home was here. This is how the U.S. Government thanks the service of an active Army soldier who gives his life for his country. Leaving his family HOMELESS.” Sgt. Jimenez and his wife have now filed a $395,000 lawsuit against the county and individual building inspectors.
The county sent Jimenez notices of code violations for a dangerous porch, faulty electrical and a bad roof. They gave him 30 days to begin the process of bringing the 70 year old home up to current code. Jimenez, who is currently stationed in Texas, spoke to CBS 4 Miami and said that the 30 day notice was impossible for him to meet because he was in Iraq teaching soldiers how to handle explosive devises.
SCRA (Service Members Civil Relief Act) states that a service member should be given an additional 90 days to deal with matters like this. The judge in the case, Robert Scola Jr., said that Jimenez filed a valid “stay of proceedings” at the time. Regarding the 30 day notice, Judge Scola wrote “SCRA (Service Members Civil Relief Act) tries to avoid situations where a service member is disadvantaged for his or her service to this country.”
In response to the lawsuit, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez issued this statement: “This unfortunate situation began prior to my time as mayor. My administration will continue to comply with all federal laws that safeguard our veterans, especially when they are on active duty.”
Judge Scola is urging both sides to come together and to reach some sort of settlement on this lawsuit which is seeking the money for the house, attorney’s fees and punitive damages. Jimenez says that he is willing to sell the empty lot and two nearby properties with code violations if an agreement can be reached with Miami-Dade County.
Jimenez is still trying to make sense of the demolition of his home that resulted in this lawsuit. “….It didn’t have to go this far” Jimenez told CBS 4 Miami.
If no agreement is reached, this case will go to trial in early September.