An argument over a half-built redwood fence between neighboring properties resulted in the arrest Saturday of former Lawndale Councilman Dan McKenzie, 75, and his wife, Dolores, 71, for allegedly violating a court order.
Eleanor Ballesteros, 65, and her daughter Audrey, 30, had won a temporary restraining order last week that required the McKenzies to move their cars from their side yard to enable workers to finish building the six-foot redwood fence between the properties.
When the McKenzies refused to comply with the order, sheriff’s deputies handcuffed them and took them to the station about 8 a.m. Saturday.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Lt. Larry Schwartz said. “We were forced to comply with the dictates of the court order, but we don’t consider (the McKenzies) criminals.”
For more than 20 years, an ivy-covered chain-link fence stood between the two properties. The fence, which was built in 1958 by the former owner of the Ballesteroses’ property, was placed a foot short of the property line.
Dan McKenzie, who served on the council six years before retiring in April, says the former owner gave him the extra strip of land when he discovered the fence was in the wrong place “because he didn’t want to move the fence.”
But the Ballesteroses say there never was any legal transfer and that the property is rightfully theirs.
The McKenzies and the Ballesteroses haven’t been friendly for years. Eleanor Ballesteros has accused Dan McKenzie of spray-painting slurs about Mexicans on his garage and calling her and her daughter derogatory names. McKenzie, who denies the charges, says Ballesteros constantly takes pictures of him and his wife in their yard and that he believes she was responsible for killing his dogs with rat poison last month. Ballesteros denies killing the dogs.
Their relationship was further soured last month when the Ballesteroses decided to tear down the chain-link fence and replace it with the redwood fence, which was to be built closer to the original property line.
Eleanor Ballesteros said in a court declaration that when the contractors began to build the fence on Dec. 3, Dan McKenzie “deliberately pushed his camper in front of the workers and directly in the path of where the fence was to be built.” McKenzie, however, says he hasn’t moved the camper for five or more years.
Then last week, the Ballesteroses received a temporary restraining order requiring the McKenzies to remove two other cars and the camper from the Ballesteroses’ property so they could finish building the fence. When the McKenzies refused, Eleanor Ballesteros called the Sheriff’s Department.
Dan McKenzie posted $250 bail, but deputies allowed his wife to go without posting bail. Deputies then drove them home, Schwartz said. The McKenzies’ cars were not towed from the area, however, because the court order wasn’t specific enough to allow deputies to enter the McKenzies’ property, Sgt. Dan Rosenberg said.
The judge who issued the temporary restraining order is scheduled to make a final decision about the property line dispute on Jan. 2. Eight days later, the McKenzies are to appear on charges of violating the court order.