By Anne Valente
By Lindsay Toler
By Ray Downs
By Lindsay Toler
By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
The alderman has made good on his promise on two separate occasions — the latest occurring at an August 25 board meeting in which Hoffmann browbeat King with excerpts from the letter. After tolerating the assault for several minutes, an enraged King had all he could take and stormed out of the boardroom. "I'm not going to stand here and let you question my integrity," King yelled. "I'll challenge my reputation against yours any day."
Weeks later, King remains bewildered by Hoffmann's theatrics. "I've appeared before dozens of boards over the years as a real estate attorney, and I've never had a similar experience with any other official," says King. "I suppose that he has the podium and the right to yell at me if he wants, but it's not a professional way of doing business."
In mid-summer Hoffmann's fixation with Marchant-Calsyn took him to city hall, where he discovered that the business owner had failed to pay local licensing fees for his office along Highway 40 in Town & County.
Outraged by what he considered a blatant attempt to circumvent city regulations and deny the city hundreds of dollars in fees, Hoffmann took his concerns to Town & Country attorney Steve Garrett. All Garrett did, maintains the alderman, was write Marchant-Calsyn a letter telling him he had so many days to pay. (Garrett declined to comment for this article, citing his independent status as a third-party employee of Town & Country.)
In July, Hoffmann asked police chief John Copeland to go to Marchant-Calsyn's office and write him up for operating a business for three years in Town & Country without a proper license. When the chief refused, Hoffmann says he took matters into his own hands and drafted a piece of legislation demanding that the police intervene. (Copeland did not return repeated calls for comment.)
Hoffmann's city resolution, No. 10-2008, would have required the police chief to "take immediate enforcement action" and cite Marchant-Calsyn for each year he's operated a business in Town & Country without a license. Like so many of Hoffmann's other proposals, the resolution died when he was the only alderman to vote in support of the measure.
"You can't write a law today and then go fine someone for breaking that law yesterday," says one alderman. "If John wants to write an ordinance that includes a penalty for companies that don't pay their business license, that's great. But it can't be enforced retroactively."
Hoffmann says he just wants to give teeth to a law that's already on the books. "Here we are in Town & Country, telling people that we won't fine them if they're operating a business without a license," he exclaims. "What's the point of having these rules if you don't enforce them?"
As Hoffmann continues to build his case against Marchant-Calsyn, he's recently learned that some of his critics have begun poking around into his own background. In recent weeks e-mails have circulated among Town & Country officials shedding light on Hoffmann's controversial tenure in jobs in Kansas City and Maryland. Last month, an attorney representing "concerned parties in Town & Country" also contacted Riverfront Times, and presented the paper with a packet of information regarding Hoffmann's past.
Hoffmann, it turns out, has been fired from two police departments — in Manchester in 1980 and again in Liberty, where he was discharged in 1986 on charges of "insubordination" and "incompetence or negligence in the performance of his duties," according to documents Hoffmann supplied RFT.
Years later, as the taxicab commissioner in Montgomery County, Hoffmann made headlines for his public feuds with both livery owners and his county bosses. A 2005 Washington Post article reported that Hoffmann had earned the nickname "Dirty Harry of Taxicab Inspectors" for his over-the-top policing procedures, in which he went undercover as a clueless tourist, set up sting operations and spied on taxi companies from airplanes. The Post reported that Hoffmann's renegade tactics prompted superiors to order him "to cease and desist in certain types of aggressive enforcement."
When he refused to back down, Hoffmann was assigned a desk job. Days later, he resigned in protest. "Mr. Hoffmann's heart was in the right place," Montgomery County spokeswoman Esther Bowring told the Post. "But he often crossed the line in the execution of his duties, putting himself and others at risk."
Hoffmann views his time as a taxicab commissioner and a Liberty police officer as badges of honor. As taxi inspector, he says he ended the political corruption and lax oversight that had plagued the cab fleet for years and threatened the safety of its passengers. "I was filing an average of 450 cases a year, plus 30 to 50 license revocations," says Hoffmann. "My boss didn't like the amount of violations I was finding, as she felt it made her look bad."
Hoffmann claims he was fired from the Liberty job because he cited a garbage company for dumping waste into the Missouri River and then refused to back down when an assistant chief asked that he not file the charge.
The police later compiled a handful of complaints to justify the dismissal, some of which alleged that Hoffmann had at times appeared "rude" and "belligerent" while assisting the public.