Fighting City Hall
One man’s crusade against Monterey’s city attorneys may end up being moot.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
When Deborah Mall was sworn in as Monterey’s new city attorney last month, she assumed more than just her predecessor’s power and duties. She also inherited the ire of Michael Allen Shouff.
Shouff, who also goes by the name Michael Allen, has a history of filing massive claims against the City which allege fraud, deceit and other criminal violations. A claim is the precursor to filing a lawsuit for monetary damages.
His recent $32 million claim against the City is the first time he has specifically named Deborah Mall instead of her predecessor, William B. Conners.
“This stems from an age-old code enforcement issue that Mr. Shouff has unsuccessfully appealed a number of times,” says Assistant City Manager Fred Cohn.
According to Cohn, the code violation in question refers to an illegal structure on the property at 2300 Prescott Ave. in Monterey. Originally zoned as a guest house, the City asserts that the second unit was made illegal when a kitchen and a full bathroom were added and the unit was rented out.
On Aug. 28, 2002, a court trial was held on the matter and Judge Robert O’Farrell ruled in favor of the City. Shouff was ordered to tear the bathroom and kitchen out of the unit and cease using it as a rental unit. When Shouff failed to do so, the City began fining him $50 for every day the unit remained in non-compliance. Today, that fine is upwards of $50,000.
Shouff responded by running for city council on what can only be called an anti-city-attorney platform in 2002. He received 690 votes.
Still, Mall says she was “surprised to be the target” of the most recent claim.
“I’ve invited him repeatedly to come in and present his evidence to me but he never comes,” she says. “I thought we had a pretty civil relationship, actually.”
Shouff did not return several phone calls from the Weekly seeking comment for this article.
Shouff’s argument with the city may be ultimately irrelevant anyway as he doesn’t even own the property. 2300 Prescott’s title is in the name Doris Prust, a Carmel Highlands resident.
When contacted and asked about the City’s lien on her house, Prust simply said, “It’s illegal,” before refusing to comment any further and directing all further inquiries to Shouff, whom she called “my gentleman friend.”
According to Mall, Shouff claims he has an installment land contract with Ms. Prust, but no documentation has been presented to support this claim.
To make matters worse for Shouff and Prust, the City Attorney’s office recently received notice of a trustee sale on their home from the Law Offices of Steven J. Melmet, which represent Bank of America.
“The bank is selling his house for a failure to make payments, and I think Mr. Shouff is trying to blame the city for that,” Mall says.
During the public comments portion of the Aug. 2 city meeting, Shouff threatened to return at the Aug. 16 city council meeting and put Mall under citizen’s arrest. It was a threat Mall didn’t take lightly. A former teacher, Shouff was convicted in 1994 of possessing a firearm near a playground or youth center, and given a three-year suspended sentence.
“I definitely have a lot of sympathy for someone whose house is in foreclosure but I don’t think the City is an appropriate place to direct that anger.” Mall says. “Still, it would not be appropriate for Mr. Shouff to put me under citizen’s arrest.”
Shouff failed to appear during the public comments portion of the Aug. 16 city council meeting.