Friday, June 03, 2011

Man run out of town & fined for volunteering without a license

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Mike Haege
Mike Haege

More libertarian fodder: Man goes to volunteer to help clean up in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the wake of the tornado outbreak, instead gets run out of town by incompetent city inspector and bullying cops and ends up fined almost $300, despite having done absolutely nothing wrong:

For a few years, Mike Haege’s sister lived in north Minneapolis. He knows the neighborhood at least a little bit, and when a tornado tore through the area on Sunday, May 22, he took notice.

On the news he saw trees strewn about lawns and streets. Then inspiration struck. He wanted to help. His schedule for Monday, May 23, was wide open. And, since he operates Custom Cut, a tree trimming business here, he figured his services could be put to good use.


Tree trimmers who work in Minneapolis need to be licensed with the city. It’s a regulation in place throughout many cities, and something Haege knows all about. He’s licensed in Hastings and several area cities. Since he doesn’t work in Minneapolis, he isn’t licensed there.

All that was moot, of course. He was just going to volunteer and was not charging residents for his services.


A city inspector arrived at the scene. She told Haege he had to leave. Immediately.

“You have to leave right now,” the inspector told Haege. “You’re not licensed to be here.”

“I said, ‘I’m just a volunteer,’ and she didn’t believe me.”

Haege went back to his truck and got his volunteer paperwork. Still, that did little to get the inspector off his back.

“I don’t want to see you up here,” she told him.


A volunteer from the Urban Homeworks, who had been with Haege since he signed up to volunteer that morning, did his best to convince the inspector that Haege wasn’t charging for his services.

Residents then came out of their doors in his defense, telling the inspector that he had just performed work at their house and hadn’t charged them a dime. Still, the defense fell on deaf ears.

The inspector told him to get out of the city, so Haege left with the volunteer. As they were on their way back to the volunteer area, residents waved down Haege, pleading for help. He pulled over and helped get a tree out of the way for them.

Haege had no idea police officers were behind him in a sort of unofficial escort out of town. He said they stopped traffic for about two hours while they figured out what to do with him. At one point, officers threatened to throw him in jail, he said.

All the while, residents continued defending him, screaming in his defense.

Officers told him to leave. They told him he was going to receive a “hefty fine” in the mail, and that if he stopped on the way out, the fine would be doubled.


Haege got more bad news in the mail Wednesday afternoon. He received a $275 fine from the City of Minneapolis.

I can understand if some particularly pedantic inspector might not believe a random person’s claim that they’re just volunteering if they don’t actually provide any proof. But it far transcends mere cynicism and lands firmly into incompetence and assholery when you still insist on kicking them out like a stray dog even after they’ve shown you the appropriate paperwork, not to mention when a crowd of people come up and defend him and support his claims.

The poor guy only wanted to help. Instead, he gets treated like a criminal and has to pay nearly $300 out of his own pocket for it.

Why, doesn’t that just encourage you to go out and help others?

(via @radleybalko)