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Date of Issue: August 23, 2007

Renters report problem, landlord gives them boot

Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to give public praise.

For “doing the right thing” and giving kudos to a city employee, Anna Maria resident and senior citizen Ron Knight and his wife have been given the boot from their rented apartment and may soon be “former” Anna Maria residents.

Knight and his wife live - at least for now - at 300 N. Shore Drive, a duplex where the owners had rented space in a third - unauthorized - unit on the property (The Islander, Aug. 8). Renting the space in a residential area to a commercial customer was a violation of city codes.

The violations, along with the fact that owners Frances Tunkel and Vickie Paul had a work crew on the property earlier this year performing repairs and renovations without a proper license or a building permit, came to the attention of code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon recently. She took immediate action to halt the unauthorized work and use of the property as a commercial storage facility.

Knight was so pleased with Rathvon’s efforts to get the violations corrected and ensure the safety of he and his wife, along with a couple with two young children in the other unit at the duplex, that he wrote a letter in early August to Mayor Fran Barford in praise of Rathvon’s performance.

The story ran in the Aug. 8 issue of The Islander and Knight’s name was used, as it’s not often that a member of the public praises a civil servant.

Alas, Tunkel and Paul were apparently so incensed with Knight that they told him he had to leave at the end of August, even though he claims to have a signed lease.

Knight said he never realized that writing a letter praising Rathvon would upset the owners, who were breaking the law.

“My praise of a conscientious, hard-working public employee prompted the infuriated owner to call me telling me to move from my residence.

“As a senior citizen with my wife and two small Pomerian dogs, I am now unsure of our future. We would like to stay on Anna Maria Island and continue our lives. Having moved here from Colorado last year, we prefer the beach, beauty and relaxed atmosphere that the Island has,” he said.

Knight said the story in The Islander also impacted the young family with two small children at the property, whom he said are not being allowed to renew their lease “because of the support given to myself and Ms. Rathvon’s investigation.”

Knight was blind-sided by the reaction.

“I never intended to create such havoc by giving someone a “thank you,” he said. “Next time, I’ll just keep my mouth shut.”

Efforts to reach either Tunkel or Paul for comment were unsuccessful.

Knight said he has a lease and will seek to remain at his current residence until Dec. 1. For the next three months, he’ll be talking to Island real estate agents about a more suitable location.