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Monday, Jun 25, 2018
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Tampa landlord’s attorney quits, delaying trial

TAMPA — Add at least one more month to the City of Tampa’s code enforcement case against landlord Ross Copelliti.

Copelliti’s 24 housing violations, incurred in 2011 on an East Tampa mobile home park, were at the top of Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Dick Greco Jr.’s docket in city code court on Wednesday.

Copelliti didn’t attend the hearing

City prosecutor Mike Schmid was planning to set a trial date for Copelitti’s string of violations -- six each for providing unfit rental housing, failing to provide electrical heat, failing to provide smoke detectors and letting floors, ceilings and walls fall below safe standards.

Copelliti’s trial attorney Daniel Fernandez stepped up to the podium facing Greco and said, essentially, “I quit.”

“My client and I can’t see eye-to-eye on how to proceed with this case,” Fernandez said as he asked Greco for permission to withdraw.

A frustrated Fernandez said it had become “impossible” to arrange a trial date for Copelliti while his property, the Greenpark Residences trailer park, remains in bankruptcy.

That bankruptcy started in September 2012, about a year after Copelliti bought the trailer park at 5004 N. 19th St.

Soon after the purchase, city code enforcement officers opened eight violation cases against Copelliti regarding eight of the 18 single-wide mobile homes on his property. Those eight cases remain unresolved, though some are being appealed.

Two years ago, city officials condemned 17 of the 18 trailers and forced nearly two dozen people living there to move. Since then, Copelliti has boarded up the empty buildings but nothing else has happened with the property.

The city has issued demolition permits against eight of the trailers, some of which are also being appealed.

After more than an year of hearings at the city’s Code Enforcement Board, Copelliti has accumulated nearly $5 million in fines on the eight unresolved violation cases.

Brandon Kolb, the attorney for Greenpark Residence Inc., the company that owns the trailer park, told the court he would recommend a new trial attorney to take over the case in May. The case will return to Greco’s court on May 14.

Kolb said the city’s fines and repair orders don’t amount to much at the moment.

“What the city’s looking for out of Mr. Copelliti, he’s not able to do because the company is in bankruptcy,” Kolb said after the hearing.

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