Pubdate: Tue, 13 May 2008
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 The Province
Author: Keith Fraser
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Fifth Court Action Against City Since 2007

A Coquitlam homeowner has filed a class-action lawsuit after his 
power was cut off and his tenant forced to move out following a 
search for a marijuana grow-op.

More than a month after the inspection by authorities bent on 
cracking down on grow-ops, Nicola Monaco's home in the 300-block 
Seaforth Crescent remains shut down after the occupancy permit was revoked.

Based on the rate of electricity consumption, B.C. Hydro suspected 
the property was a grow-op and passed the information to city officials.

On March 26, Monaco received by courier a letter from Coquitlam 
demanding that he allow a "public safety-team inspection" by city and 
Hydro officials and two RCMP officers for the next day.

Inspectors dismantled parts of the property, including the ceiling 
tiles, to gain access to and inspect the interior walls.

Monaco's lawyer, Alexander Markham-Zantvoort, said Coquitlam claimed 
that it had found signs of a grow-op, but he insists the evidence is dubious.

He said the authorities are relying on two pieces of evidence -- the 
alleged misapplication of a fuse and an old wire allegedly used to 
power hydroponic equipment.

"That's all the evidence we're aware of at this point. There's no 
mould, no equipment, no alterations to the wiring, no power-tap 
found. Nothing whatsoever."

He said his clients did not have a grow-op at the home.

The authorities advised the tenant, Tammy Marie Joseph, that she had 
only two hours to remove any belongings.

Markham-Zantvoort said Monaco, a Vancouver electrician, has so far 
paid $1,000 in bylaw-enforcement fines, $5,000 for the inspection and 
faces another $5,000 inspection bill to get the occupancy permit reinstated.

Monaco's case is the fifth lawsuit against Coquitlam since last year. 
One is in small-claims court, two are petitions, and one is a writ.

"In my view, the actions of Coquitlam are unlawful, whether they find 
a grow-op or not, because they're without a warrant, and the 
legislation or bylaw upon which they're purporting to act has no 
authority," said the lawyer.

He figured several hundred homeowners might join the case.

A B.C. Supreme Court justice recently reserved judgment in the case 
of a Surrey homeowner claiming his rights were violated when his home 
was searched for a grow-op.

A spokeswoman for the City of Coquitlam declined comment on the 
specifics of the case, but said that officials conducting searches 
don't usually expect to find any grow-ops, because they are often 
cleared away once the homeowner has been given 24 hours' notice.

In March, the city released figures stating that, of 128 homes 
searched in the final seven months of 2007, 88 properties had grow-ops.

Another 24 homes were strongly suspected of being grow-ops but there 
was insufficient evidence to follow up.

B.C. Hydro and RCMP had no comment, since the case is before the courts.
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