FORT MYERS, Fla.- The top elected official in Fort Myers is running afoul of his own city's code enforcement. Mayor Randy Henderson is receiving a notice of violation about an unpaved parking lot he owns in the downtown area.
"I thought it was okay as a parking lot, because I see grass lots used for parking all around the city," says Henderson.
The mayor says, 15 years ago, he started allowing charitable groups to park in the vacant, grassy lot. He did not charge the groups. Then, he started allowing tenants of a building he owns, to park there for free. Recently, he accepted a payment - $100 dollars a month- from a realty firm to park four cars on the lot.
"I just do this to accomodate people who ask me for parking," says Henderson.
The problem is: city codes require permanent parking lots to be paved with asphalt or concrete.
After an inquiry from WINK News on Wednesday, Fort Myers code enforcement checked out the parking lot situation.
"I spent some time researching the site and the ownership, and also taking some pictures of the vehicles parked there. We are issuing a notice of violation to Henderson Properties. They will have 30 days to cease operation as a parking lot, or start the process of paving the lot," says Richard Scott, a supervisor in code enforcement.
Scott says, he believes the mayor just didn't know the code requirements, and was not trying to get away with something.
"He is a pretty straight-forward person. I do not believe that he set out to intentionally do anything, that's going to be out of the code," says Scott.
Henderson says he believes these sorts of things happen when people are running for office. The mayor is running for re-electon in November.
"I think whoever made the tip to WINK to look into this, is petty, it is political. But I will shut the parking lot down if that is what we have to do. It is not worth a lot of problems, and I do not want to make a big issue out of it. It is something I do as a benefit to people who need some parking. I can stop it and just lock up that lot," says Henderson. "That is the easiest thing to do. I think that is easier than paving the lot."