Valley mayor speaks out on trash arrest

Published 7:30 am Tuesday, December 13, 2022

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The 82-year-old Valley citizen arrested for failure to pay her trash bill apparently received a PPP loan worth more than $20,000 through her tax preparation business, where documents show she is the lone employee. 

Martha Menefield was arrested on Nov. 27 on charges of failure to pay-trash. 

According to city officials, Menefield’s trash bill was $77, and she received numerous notifications that her bill was due. 

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Valley Mayor Leonard Riley said Menefield received $20,832 from a PPP loan in April of 2021, which is public information as all PPP loans are. According to the loan applied for under Menefield’s name and address, Riley showed documentation that she made $99,984 per year from a tax preparation service. 

“She said she made that much money out of her house,” Riley said. “If somebody makes good money out of their house, they should be able to pay their garbage bill.”

Riley said the city has been looking into fraudulent PPP loans applied for without proper business licenses. According to Riley, there have been around 150-160 fraudulent loans.

Riley said that he could not make a statement on Menefield’s income status beyond the public record of the PPP loan. However, he said she does not have a business license.

Menefield is one of many citizens to have been issued a warrant for the same offense.

“She’s been consistently late,” said Valley Mayor Leonard Riley. “She got arrested for missing court.”

The procedure of the ordinance has been in place since 2006, according to Riley. Menefield is not the only citizen to have civil action taken against them. In the last two years, there have been 21 arrest warrants for citizens who failed to pay or participate in trash pickup. Riley said that of those, there were eight White and 13 Black citizens.

However, Code Enforcement Officer MJ Jones said not all of the warrants resulted in arrests.

“Six of those came up here later and spoke to me,” Jones said. “I called the judge or the clerk’s office, had the warrant recalled and let them pay in full,” Jones said. “So again, a conversation settles all that.” 

However, Riley said that he plans to bring the trash ordinance to the attention of council members at the next city council meeting.

The Valley Times-News reached out to Menefield for comment last week, but she did not comment for the story. 

An ordinance in the city of Valley makes the trash service mandatory for citizens. When a citizen fails to pay for three months, code enforcement puts a reminder on their bill notifying them that it is past due and that they have until the 10th of the month to pay it. 

If the payment is not received by the 10th, code enforcement may suspend trash service to the individual’s home and issue a court date.

“Once the 10th comes of the third month, I start making phone calls. I call every single phone number on every single account that is late, and it takes me the better part of a day, if not a little over a day,” Jones said. “If I can’t get ahold of them by phone, I go to their house and do a door hanger.”

Between the 15th and 20th of the month, if Jones can’t make contact with the individual, he mails a handwritten citation to each household with the date of their court appearance.

“It’s a tremendous amount … between 30 and 45,” Jones said.

Before the court date, Jones tries to make contact again by phone, email or door hanger. If the individual does not appear in court, then the judge may proceed with a warrant. However, Jones said that instead he tries to make contact a third time. Citizens have until the following Monday to come by city hall and work out a payment plan. At that point, if no contact has been made, a warrant is sent.

“I did everything by the book, everything by protocol and procedure,” Jones said.

Chief Mike Reynolds said Menefield was treated respectfully by officers, according to a Valley Police Department press release. He said the police department was required to fulfill the bench warrant.

The VPD press release also said Menefield had a history of unfulfilled trash payments. Over the last two years, her trash service has been suspended multiple times for non-payment.

Jones said another citizen in a similar situation went to city hall to tell him he couldn’t pay his bill. He appeared in court and pled a hardship. The judge granted him more time and allowed him to pay in installments.

“The point is to get the bill paid, not to arrest people,” Jones said. 

Jones said that the ordinance on trash pickup offers a discounted senior citizen rate of $16.50 rather than the standard $20. According to the city code, the ordinance allows exemption to any household that can prove its sole source of income is social security benefits by the first billing date of the year.

Jones also said many city officials who have nothing to do with the ordinance or code enforcement have received hateful calls and threats from at least 30 states. 

“They were getting 60 calls a day the first week, cussing and screaming at them. They didn’t do nothing to deserve that,” Jones said. “We didn’t write the ordinance.”