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Judge Jails Former City Councilman for Contempt of Court

Times Staff Writer

Kenneth Tipton went to jail on Monday for contempt of court involving a squabble with his neighbors, a week after he resigned from the La Palma City Council.

Tipton, who has been battling for years with neighbors Dag and Pat Fossen over his chickens, a Fossen mailbox he allegedly tore down and a muddy driveway, was found in contempt of court by Orange County Superior Court Judge John H. Smith Jr.

Smith ruled that Tipton had failed to pave the easement between his home and that of the Fossens “in a professional and workmanlike manner” by Dec. 21, as the judge had ordered on Nov. 21.

The former councilman’s attorney, Ramon S. Kuzbicki, said his client asked city authorities Dec. 19 whether a permit was required for the pavement but did not receive a response until last Friday--six days after the deadline.

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City Manager Richard Rowe, however, said he informed Tipton on Dec. 20 that he would not need any permit in addition to one he already had for remodeling his home.

On Dec. 24, Kuzbicki said, Tipton laid a thin, gravel-like driveway. But Rowe said city code requires a smooth cement driveway at least 3 1/2 inches thick.

“He (Tipton) decided to make a good-faith effort to comply with the order as much as he possibly could because he was very concerned with the judge’s ruling,” Kuzbicki said. “I advised him to do what you can to make it as passable as possible.”

Workmen began pouring real concrete Monday afternoon as city authorities watched.

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At a hearing on Monday morning, Smith ordered Tipton to remain in Orange County Jail until the work was finished.

“I’m not going to fool with him (Tipton) anymore,” the judge said.

The Fossens’ attorney, John Hoover, said the couple had asked for the ruling “because of the necessity in making this guy comply with this order.”

Pat Fossen said, “I have taken all the garbage from that family that I’m going to take.”

Originally, Tipton had been in court on Monday to request a new trial in his long-running battle with the Fossens. Kuzbicki questioned the judge’s conduct, claiming that he repeatedly discussed the case with the press. Also, Kuzbicki insisted, Smith had prejudged the case.

Tipton resigned from the City Council on Dec. 23. Earlier this month, the council had voted 4 to 1 to censure him for repeatedly embarrassing the city. That vote came after Tipton claimed he could not keep a court date because he was out of town on city business--something the other members disputed.

$15,000 in Damages

On Nov. 21, Smith ordered Tipton to pay the Fossens $15,000 in damages.

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Last year, Tipton was fined $500 and placed on one year’s informal probation for violating an order prohibiting him from removing the Fossens’ mailbox from what he said was his property. On another occasion, he was found in contempt of court and fined $250 for flooding the easement that he recently was ordered to pave.


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