A Bowie business owner is walking away from a shop that's been in her family for decades. Edna Freeman said she is fed up with harassment from city officials.
Freeman owns the now-closed Freeman Appliance on W. Wise St. She took it over after her father passed away.
Freeman said she was told by city officials her business wasn't subject to new Certificate of Occupancy inspections because the business was grandfathered in. The utilities have never been shut off and have the same account number they've had for nearly 40 years. But, Freeman said she was willing to have the inspections as a show of good faith.
That, she said, is when the harassment started. Freeman said she was told several times her inspections were complete and everything checked out. But, she claims, city officials kept showing up with more and more requests. She has a copy of her fire inspection dated June 10 of this year. City Manager James Cantwell said the annual inspection is different than the CO inspection.
Code Enforcement Officer David Rainey signed off on Freeman's Certificate of Occupancy. But, he said, that is often done even if a few items still need attention.
Freeman said Fire Marshal-Fire Chief Doug Page showed up at her shop with a search warrant and a police officer last week. Freeman also said Page lied to get the warrant. During the inspection, Freeman says Cantwell only found one infraction for the use of an extension cord. That, she said, was enough. She told Page and the officer to get out of her shop and called Page a name. Then, Freeman said, he came back in and started taking pictures of the store.
While pleading her case to Page, Freeman said, a microwave fell over. Then, she said, the officer threw her against a table, twisted her arm and threatened to arrest her. Lillian Priddy, owner of Texland Real Estate, said she witnessed the event and was even pushed by the officer herself. No one was arrested.
Mayor Larry Cox said he has looked into the incident. He said the officer and Page both said Freeman threw the microwave at them.
City Manager James Cantwell said it is Freeman who is simply not complying with code. He said it is city policy to require the inspections even if utilities only change names. That, Cantwell said, is how cities keep older buildings up to code. Cantwell also said it is in the city's best interest to resolve the problem and keep the business in town.
Cantwell did confirm Page has had disciplinary issues in the past. Cantwell placed Page on six months probation and ordered him to take a leadership class. That, he said, stemmed from "a few dumb stunts." One of those involved Page cutting off a fireman's hair with a knife.
Freeman said she is selling her business because she can't take the harassment anymore. She said she isn't suing Bowie and has no plans to. She said she just wants to be left alone.
According to Freeman, others in town have been hassled by the city. But, she said, they are too afraid to speak out. With nothing left to be afraid of, Freeman said, she chose to speak up.