The Rev. Peter Caputo, an ex-police officer from Michigan who is nowan Anglican priest in Crownsville, has become Crofton's part-time covenant enforcement officer.
The well-known priest, who serves up advice to people from his morning spot at Chic and Ruth's deli on MainStreet in Annapolis and who spends time listening and handing out money to people in need, started the job two weeks ago.
He roams the streets of Crofton once a week, answering complaintsabout residents who may be violating their agreements with the community by putting up satellite dishes, parking boats in their drivewaysor committing one of many other possible infractions.
Caputo willwork Wednesdays. His hiring may please the many people who have complained that the special tax district hasn't been as aggressive as it should be when enforcing the local code.
"In the often frustrating, exasperating, contentious and adversarial business of covenant enforcement, he has God on his side," Town Manager Jordan Harding said. "And we need all the help and prayers we can get."
The job, which pays $7.50 an hour, is budgeted for eight hours a week. Harding said that Caputo found as many as six violations on his first day alone.
Caputo comes into the the job with a wealth of experience -- from his days as a vice officer in Roosevelt Park, Mich., a small town near Grand Rapids, to hisdays serving on the Annapolis Housing Authority and Anne Arundel County Alcohol and Drug Council.
"I gravitate toward government entities," Caputo said, explaining one of the reasons he applied -- along with 25 others -- for the position. "That's all I really know in the secular world."
Looking for something to supplement his small income as pastor of Crownsville's St. Charles Anglicanparish, Caputo said he needed a job that was only one day a week.
"That leaves me with six days to do my church thing," he explained.
As enforcement officer, Caputo will try to mediate complaints and violations and attempt to get people to fix whatever is wrong. If theresidents do not comply, he will send a letter giving them two weeksto fix the problem.
If that fails, Caputo will send the residentsanother letter giving them five more days. The next step is to bringthe problem to the board of directors, who will have to decide whether legal action is necessary.
But that can be expensive -- sometimes running between $1,000 and $5,000 a case. And if the community loses, it may be responsible for paying the legal fees of the homeowner.
The board of directors already is trying to decide whether to take three homeowners to court for violations. Harding would not identify the residents, some of whom live in Crofton Orchards.
The hiringof Caputo comes after the board, during its budget process, decided to allocate more money for legal fees for the express purpose of enforcing covenants. "We are trying to be more aggressive," Harding said,adding that the board recently received a petition from a large group of Crofton Orchards residents demanding rigid code enforcement.
Caputo said he believes people, once approached, will be agreeable tofixing their problems. "Crofton residents are people who enjoy theircommunity," he said. "If there is a problem, I'm sure they will wantto comply."
Harding said he doesn't see any problem with having apriest in what could be an adversarial role.
"We don't see any conflicts," he said. "I carefully thought this out and discussed it with Mr. Caputo."