HOUSTON -- Houston property owners with swimming pools drowning in safety problems are often thrown a legal life preserver by city prosecutors and judges, according to an11 News I-Team analysis of municipal court violations.

11 News reviewed 1708 citations written by city health inspectors from June 2007 through June 2010. They range from algae-filled water, inadequate fencing and operating a pool in a manner constituting a hazard to public health.

But despite the seriousness of the charges, the vast majority get dismissed in court.

Consider some of the examples: A community center pool in the 2000 block of Solo was so nasty that inspectors found a dead bird floating in the greenish-brown water. The city wrote up a half-dozen violations--carrying up to $3,620 in fines. But the pool owner wound up paying a fraction of that-- $624--because the other charges were dropped.

It gets worse. An apartment complex in the 3400 block of Ella Blvd. received 28 violations over eight months in 2008 and 2009. The owner faced $22,093 in possible fines, but ultimately only had to pay $1,226, or just five cents on the dollar.

Turns out, for every ten charges filed, eight get thrown out in court.

The number does surprise me, said City of Houston attorney David Feldman.

I was unaware of that statistical data, that is a point of information that I'd like to look at more closely myself, Feldman said.

11 News looked closely and found the biggest reason for cases getting dismissed was officer not present in court. In other words, the inspector who wrote the ticket in the first place, failed to show up.

I don't believe it does anybody any good, said Municipal Courts Chief Presiding Judge Barbara Hartle. Because they're absolutely necessary to be there for the case to go forward.

She said she plans to discuss the issue with the City s Health Department and City Attorney s office.

I don't know why they're not showing up. That's the question right? And I don't have the answer for that, Hartle said.

Read or Share this story: