DEFENDING HOME & DIGNITY
Michelle Wojciechowski's Stand against Civil Rights Violations
For three years, Michelle Wojciechowski has been courageously standing up against gross violations of her civil rights, highlighting an alarming pattern of harassment, unlawful search and seizure, retaliation, and more from city officials. From constant scrutiny and targeted code violations to malicious prosecution and trespassing, Michelle’s journey has been marked by audacious actions that defy basic principles of law and justice. Join us as we delve into this riveting story of one woman’s fight against systemic abuse of power, and her pursuit of a $1 million lawsuit for the damages she has endured. Continue reading to learn more about how Kevin Ross-Andino and éclat Law are championing Wojciechowski’s cause and to find updates as this case continues!
WHAT HAPPENED TO WOJCIECHOWSKI?
In a David vs Goliath-style battle, Michelle Wojciechowski is fighting for her rights against the City of New Port Richey in a $1M lawsuit. This tale of resilience and determination unfolds as she stands up to continuous harassment, unjust actions, and civil rights violations, refusing to be silenced in her quest for justice.
In 2020, Wojciechowski purchased a property with the intention of opening a mental health counseling center. However, her dreams were met with an unexpected roadblock in 2021 when a permit tech misinterpreted her intentions and informed her that the city would not allow a “methadone clinic”—a concept she’d never even proposed. This was the beginning of a series of conflicts that would escalate into a full-blown legal battle.
The fire department soon became involved, peering into Michelle’s windows due to an anonymous call expressing concerns about the property. This invasion of privacy added another layer of tension to an already fraught situation.
At the heart of this conflict was Charles Morgan, a police and code enforcement officer who harbored personal problems with Michelle and her boyfriend, Nikolaos Koutsos. Morgan’s relationship with Koutsos’s ex-girlfriend had seemingly tainted his professional impartiality. This bias manifested itself in an onslaught of code violations issued against Michelle and alleged stalking through the police database system known as DAVID. Distressed and feeling targeted, Michelle requested another code enforcement officer, only to be met with further resistance from the city. This marked the start of her uphill struggle against systemic discrimination and violation of civil rights.
In an effort to challenge the onslaught of fines, Wojciechowski took her case before the city magistrate. However, the relentless stress of the situation began to affect her work performance, leading her to leave her job. Then, further complicating matters, her appeal hearing was rescheduled—not once, but twice—due to Charles Morgan’s inability to attend. This unexpected shift in dates resulted in Michelle losing a much-anticipated job opportunity in another state.
When Michelle tried to file a formal complaint against Morgan, accusing him of harassment and retaliation, she found the city uncooperative, refusing to provide the necessary forms or explain the procedures. Driven to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, she unearthed that the city had stooped to tracking her water consumption as a means to surveil her property usage.
Under the oppressive scrutiny of Charles Morgan and Erik Jay, Sergeant of the New Port Richey Police Department, Michelle’s property was incessantly monitored, her water usage tracked and at one point shut off, and her personal space violated with intrusive spying through her windows and photography of the property. An eerie police presence, including the New Port Richey Police Chief in an unmarked SUV, was often stationed outside her property. Even her right to free speech was stifled: upon exercising her first amendment right to post a sign criticizing code enforcement’s behavior, it was deemed “construction debris” and forcibly removed.
In an alarming turn of events, code enforcement managed to turn her neighbors against her, further isolating her. The intensity of harassment pushed Michelle to the edge. Feeling unsafe and distrustful of those who were supposed to protect her, she saw no other option but to leave her property behind and seek refuge in an RV, a drastic measure manifested by the severity of her ordeal.
The events of March 2022 mark the climax of Michelle Wojciechowski’s long-standing conflict with the city. On March 15th, Sergeant Jay notified Michelle about an impending inspection warrant—not a search warrant—to be served on her property the following day. However, instead of waiting for her response, they hired a locksmith and forcefully served the inspection warrant. Michelle did not receive the email notification until after it had been executed. In less than 24 hours since the attempted contact, city personnel stormed into her property with guns drawn.
The intrusion was captured in video evidence, showing over 14 city personnel, including fire department representatives, code enforcement officers, and police officers, rummaging through her trash bins and tearing through her personal belongings—a major violation of privacy irrelevant to potential code violations. The officers also made derogatory comments about her financial status, planning to give her more violations, and made anti-Semitic remarks comparing parts of her property to Anne Frank’s shelter during the Holocaust, knowing full well that Wojciechowski is Jewish. This blatant display of anti-Semitism and disregard for basic human rights not only tarnished Michelle’s dignity, but also laid bare the deep-seated, systemic culture of abuse within the City of New Port Richey’s administrative machinery.
From April to August 2022, Michelle Wojciechowski found herself in an escalating legal conflict with the city. Despite her attempts to seek redress for the above break-in by filing a police report, lodging a complaint with the city’s risk management, and appealing a fire code violation, she was consistently obstructed. Additionally, her appeals to the police internal affairs department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were rejected. Eventually, Michelle secured legal representation and filed a report with the attorney general concerning the persistent harassment and alleged stalking through the DAVID system.
The intense and ongoing psychological stress ultimately necessitated mental health treatment and medication. It also impeded her ability to work, leading to financial instability. This period was marked by intense legal disputes and a significant impact on Michelle’s mental health and financial wellbeing.
From September to November 2022, Michelle Wojciechowski experienced escalating public hostility directed at her from the City of New Port Richey. She was publicly criticized by the mayor, Rob Marlowe, at a city council meeting for making Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and was subjected to a personal attack when derogatory graffiti was found on her property after that same meeting. The sense of constant surveillance intensified with police visits over trivial matters, such as a missing water meter lid. Further, Michelle faced public defamation from Police Chief Kim Bogart at another city council meeting.
Despite the obstacles and nonstop harassment she has encountered, Wojciechowski continues her battle, showing remarkable resilience and determination. This year, she enlisted the services of éclat Law, led by Founding Partner Kevin Ross-Andino, to sue the City of New Port Richey for malicious prosecution, abuse of process, negligent hiring and training of city employees, trespassing, and violating her First and Fourth Amendment rights as well as the Driver Privacy Act. Not only is this the second major Civil Rights case that Ross-Andino has filed against New Port Richey this year, but his legal action represents a significant step in the people’s ongoing fight for justice.
Michelle Wojciechowski’s story should serve as a call to arms for us all. It is a reminder that we must not remain silent in the face of systemic injustice, no matter how formidable the opposition may seem. By standing up for our rights and holding those in power accountable, we can contribute to a fairer and more just society. Let us remember Michelle’s courage and persistence and use it as an inspiration in our own battles against injustice. If you see something that doesn’t sit right with you, take action. Get informed, speak up, and never underestimate the difference one voice can make.
IN THE NEWS
AUGUST 2023: FIGHTING BACK
WOJCIECHOWSKI V. THE CITY OF NEW PORT RICHEY
Kevin Ross-Andino of éclat Law has filed a $1M lawsuit against the city of New Port Richey on behalf of Michelle Wojciechowski, claiming her civil rights were violated by the city and its employees. Among the alleged violations are unlawful search and seizure, retaliation, malicious prosecution, abuse of process by code enforcement, negligent hiring of city employees, negligent training and supervision of city officials, and trespassing. The lawsuit names three defendants and several others who were employed by the city, who each participated in reprehensible behavior towards Wojciechowski. This is yet another case in New Port Richey this year which highlights the lack of accountability and need for justice in our communities.
FORMER RESIDENT FILES $1M HARASSMENT SUIT AGAINST NEW PORT RICHEY
Wojciechowski has filed a federal lawsuit against New Port Richey, City Attorney Timothy Driscoll and Code Enforcement Officer Charles Morgan and the details are shocking. The complaint alleges an absurd amount of mistreatment, including “reviling, reprehensible and repugnant behavior” that caused Wojciechowski financial, emotional, and psychological harm, as well as unlawful search and seizure, revenge, and violation of the Driver Privacy Protection Act. The city allegedly retaliated by flooding her with fake code violations, and things escalated when 13 city workers forcibly entered her property without her presence. However, the worst part may be body camera footage that showed officers making insensitive, Anne Frank-related jokes about the home. Such behavior understandably deepened Wojciechowski’s fear of remaining in New Port Richey and led her to seek refuge in Newport, Tennessee.
NEW PORT RICHEY HIT WITH FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT
New Port Richey is at the center of another federal civil rights lawsuit. The suit, brought by property owner Michelle Wojciechowski, alleges that the city violated her civil rights, trespassed on her property and retaliated against her, and seeks $1 million in damages. According to the complaint, Wojciechowski was harassed with numerous code violations and had her property searched illegally while being denied clear answers regarding city requirements for opening a business. The situation has become even more concerning with the release of security camera footage that allegedly shows officers making antisemitic remarks and discussing the possibility of harming her dogs. To make matters worse, city officials replaced the lock on Wojciechowski’s property without providing her with a key. This is not the first time New Port Richey has faced legal action in recent times. In the last year, another federal civil rights lawsuit was brought by Marlowe Jones, who was arrested during a Black Lives Matter demonstration and later acquitted. He is now seeking $2 million in damages.
MARCH 2023: CODE ENFORCEMENT CRACKDOWNS
HOW A FLORIDA CITY TARGETS UNWANTED RESIDENTS USING POLICE AND CODE ENFORCEMENT
The New Port Richey police department has faced allegations of using code enforcement and city management to intimidate tenants and business owners for profit. These actions have resulted in substantial fines and property forfeitures, generating over $4 million in revenue. Several individuals, including Michelle Wojciechowski and Jennifer Hebert, have experienced sustained harassment, including illegal search warrants, surveillance, and false charges. The Pontlitz family was also unfairly targeted and forced to close their beloved bar. Councilman Peter Altman and mayoral candidate Kate Connolly have called for transparency and improved communication, while citizens affected by these actions simply seek an end to the corrupt politics that have plagued their city. From Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
FAMILIES LOSE HOMES AFTER FLORIDA CITIES TURBOCHARGE CODE ENFORCEMENT FORECLOSURES
Jessica Shroyer is at risk of losing her family home in Fort Pierce, FL due to property fines dating back to 2004. Despite pleas for help and inadequate legal representation, many property owners have faced foreclosure suits without proper notice or sufficient time to defend themselves. Attorney Matt Weidner, hired by nine cities throughout Florida including Fort Pierce, has earned millions by pursuing these cases aggressively, disproportionately targeting heavily Black neighborhoods. This practice not only puts families out of their homes but also generates untapped revenue for cities. The Herald investigation revealed similar stories of homeowners, such as Wade Clark, a 78-year-old veteran battling cancer, and Malekia and Maya McKinney, who faced foreclosure after their mother’s passing. These examples highlight the unjust consequences of these lawsuits and the urgency for reform in the foreclosure process. From the Miami Herald.
PASCO CODE ENFORCEMENT TACTIC ZEROES IN ON BLIGHT
Pasco County, Florida has implemented a “high-return enforcement” strategy in order to enforce compliance with county codes. This initiative involves various departments, including the county attorney’s office, code enforcement, and the Sheriff’s Office, working together to target blighted structures or repeat violators of county codes. Commissioners have supported this effort by adding personnel and a certified building official who are dedicated exclusively to high-return enforcement. The program aims to resolve cases quickly, emphasizing compliance rather than eradicating businesses or uses. In the past year, the county has received over 16,500 code enforcement complaints; of the cases deemed worthy of high-return enforcement, the county determined 185 buildings were blighted or damaged beyond repair. Owners knocked down 63 of their structures. The county demolished 55 others. From Tampa Bay Times.
SEPTEMBER 2022: NO MORE FOIA
NEW PORT RICHEY MAYOR SAYS PEOPLE SEEKING PUBLIC RECORDS SHOULD "GO AWAY"
New Port Richey citizens are grappling with scandal after scandal involving their city’s police department, leaving many seeking answers from the city government. However, at a recent council meeting, Mayor Rob Marlowe made it clear that he has little regard for public input or transparency, referring to public comments as “garbage” and telling those seeking answers to “go away.” In the midst of this tense atmosphere, activist Marlowe Jones dared to speak up and demand an investigation into police misconduct, only to be falsely accused by the mayor of putting himself between a protester and a cop during a Black Lives Matter protest. When Jones refused to be silenced, Marlowe kicked him out of the meeting. Meanwhile, other citizens like Michelle Wojciechowski are left to deal with the consequences of police overreach on their own, after her home was raided without a warrant containing her name or correct address by law enforcement officials who made racist Holocaust jokes during their search. The behavior of city officials towards concerned citizens raises serious questions about the leadership and accountability of New Port Richey’s government. From Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
TOWN TELLS RESIDENT SHE'S A BAD PERSON AND TO GO AWAY AFTER FOIA REQUESTS
BODYCAM FOOTAGE SHOWS NEW PORT RICHEY POLICE OFFICER MAKING HOLOCAUST JOKE
A recent incident involving New Port Richey police officers making an insensitive Holocaust joke while inspecting the home of a Jewish resident has sparked outrage and calls for action. The body camera footage revealed one officer making the joke, followed by Corporal Karen Norris laughing and pointing at the officer. The victim of the joke, Michelle Wojciechowski, a woman of Polish Jewish descent, has hired a lawyer and is alleging that her Fourth Amendment rights were violated and that her house was unlawfully entered in violation of state law. This egregious act is not an isolated incident for NPRPD, as activist Kimberly Cox attested at a recent city council meeting where she labeled the officers’ behavior as “disgusting” and “unacceptable”. It is important for law enforcement officers to be held accountable for their actions, particularly when they involve insensitive and inappropriate behavior towards members of the community they are sworn to serve and protect. From Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
BODYCAM CATCHES ANNE FRANK JOKE - ULTIMATE IRONY
JULY 2022: BREAKING & ENTERING
SWAT STYLE ENTRY FOR SCARY CRIME OF NO BUILDING PERMIT
YouTuber The Civil Rights Lawyer discusses his opinion of NPRPD’s entry into Wojciechowski’s property.
UPDATE - I TALK TO THE HOMEOWNER IN THE SWAT ENTRY BUILDING INSPECTION CASE
YouTuber The Civil Rights Lawyer interviews Michelle Wojciechowski, going into depth about NPRPD’s entry into her property and the events that lead up to it.