Ames Property, Allegations Still Under Review

Photo by Sarah Brown – Calvin Ames asks to speak with city staff.

As the City of Sweet Home looks into allegations about Code Enforcement Officer Blake Dawson acting illegally and inappropriately toward residents during abatement, Calvin Ames approached City Manager Kelcey Young to provide an update on his efforts to regain control of his property.

Ames told Young on March 13 that he just filed for probate at the court, which Young said she was happy to hear.

“I’ve been working my ass off; I’m going to get’er done,” Ames told her.

The original will had been found, he said, adding that he believes it fell through the cracks at the county courthouse some time ago. Ames told the city he will be working on getting a building permit in order to fix his house. He said he just needs to install two windows, hook up electricity, and fix the roof.

He asked Young if he would be refunded if his videos can prove officers “did all this” illegally. She responded that it is an entirely different question at hand they’d have to pursue, but so far there has been no evidence that anything illegal has happened.

“Right now we’re just trying to get you to connect all the dots so that we can get you back in your house,” she told Ames. “We want to make sure that you have all your resources, too.”

She offered some ideas – such as Legal Aid, FAC, the Sweet Home Police Department, Habitat for Humanity, and home remodeling programs – that might be able to help him with his process.

Young told Ames that, according to City Attorney Robert Snyder, nothing was found in the videos showing illegal activity.

“What’s being looked at is more of a personnel issue than anything,” she said.

Ames responded, “Well (Snyder) is a conflict of interest.”


The City Council during its Feb. 13 meeting agreed to place liens on three properties that were abated by the city, and tabled their decision to do so for Ames’ property while they looked into allegations of illegal abatement.

The properties the city placed liens on were: 4143 Osage St., owner deceased, squatters on property, rundown “dangerous” building overgrown with vegetation and junk, cleaned at a total cost of $8,320; 1435 22nd Ave., private parties attempted cleanup but conditions were reported to have worsened, violations included unlawfully occupied RV, abandoned vehicles, nuisance animals, burning trash and trash stored outside, abatement of the RV total cost of $5,200; and 1333 13th Ave., Adult Protective Services alerted the city of an elderly resident residing in a “dangerous” building who needed a higher level of care and could not clean her property of noxious vegetation and open storage, she was relocated to a care facility, abatement total cost was $39,812.60, plus an additional lien already on the property for $69,770.

City codes outline what is considered nuisances on property that owners are responsible for. If left unmaintained, owners will face fines and/or forced abatement of the nuisance. Community and Economic Development Director Blair Larsen said that city and state codes provide a process for them to go through to clean property. Initially, multiple notices of code violations are handed out and the property owners are “typically given a period of time to correct that. If they don’t correct it, there’s a couple different ways the City can go about it.”

Normally, he said, the owners are issued citations and fines until the problem is corrected. This often involves a process through the municipal court where a judge may offer to waive the fines if the problem is corrected.

“That is limited because it depends on the property owner to respond,” Larsen said.

Eventually those fines may lead to a lien on the property, he said. The other option is abatement, which means after violation notices and the passing of time without correction of the problem, the City goes in and does the clean up themselves. Often it involves hauling off large amounts of junk or boarding up a structure.

“The problem with that is the City has to have the money to do it in the first place,” Larsen said.

The City hires a private company to clean up the property, then the City invoices the property owner for the work done, plus an administrative fee. Oftentimes those invoices go unpaid, so the City must recoup its costs by placing a lien on the property. With a lien in place, the City can ensure that it is either repaid when the property is later sold or pursue repayment through the foreclosure process. Owners can also pay off the fee before repayment through a sale or foreclosure is enforced.

Calvin Ames

Property owners were given opportunity to address the council at the Feb. 13 meeting, during which time Ames and others objected to the manner in which Dawson managed the abatement process.

Ames was residing at his parents’ home at 1188 55th Ave. where Eldred and Eugenia Ames were listed as owners but are now deceased. He said he was out of town when Dawson made attempts to locate and contact the rightful property owner to address the code violations, which included a “dangerous” building, burning and buried trash, sewage leakage, junked vehicles, trash stored outside, unlawfully occupied RVs and more.

Heather Kelly, who told City Council she had been in a long-term relationship with Ames and living on the property for years, had multiple interactions with Dawson as he attempted to make contact with the rightful owner. She and Ames both reported that not only did Dawson violate code enforcement timelines and assistance, but he also interacted aggressively, damaged personal property and made derogatory remarks.

Larsen said the allegations contradict what other sources have told him, but he would review Dawson’s body camera footage to investigate the claims. He also reported the nuisances on the property have been “an issue for years” and the officer has been working on the problem for seven months.

“We put out notices for abatement after we make an attempt to work with property owners and work with occupants to clean up a property,” Larsen said. “They have plenty of notice that there is a violation there.”

It was reported a will leaving the house to Calvin Ames was filed with the court some time ago, but the probate process was never completed. Furthermore, property taxes had not been paid for the past four years. The house has been condemned until problems – such as inadequate sanitary facilities, missing or broken doors and windows, no adequate heating, a hole in the roof, an illegal attic bedroom, and no water service – are brought up to code. Abatement costs for the Ames property totaled $38,223.60.

Larsen returned to City Council on Feb. 27 to report he reviewed all documents and five hours worth of video footage regarding allegations against Dawson. He reported he was not able to find any evidence of alleged egregious remarks, nor had Kelly or Ames provided any of their own video footage to show as much. Furthermore, he had evidence of “numerous” verbal and written warnings and condemnation notices that were mailed, handed out, verbalized and posted on the property dating as far back as May 2023.

The Council agreed to table the issue once again in order for council members to have time to review video footage themselves. Though the issue was placed on the agenda for March 12, it was postponed for discussion at a later date.

Young indicated video from Kelly and or Ames has since been obtained by the city, but staff could not see anything illegal happening; she asked Ames to provide timestamps so staff know what the pair are specifically referring to that they believe is illegal action. Young told Ames on March 13 that the issue is expected to be addressed at a later meeting, possibly the end of April at the earliest.

“I need some time to just thoroughly look at everything,” she said. “We just want to be very, very, very thorough.”

Young told The New Era some of the video footage she’s seen so far reveal that residents on abated properties tend to be the ones who are not so nice.

“I’ve watched Blake get sworn at and yelled at,” she said. “He gets threatened and all sorts of things. May he be a little bit brusque? –Yeah; that’s quite likely. But we don’t have any evidence of him doing anything that would be considered illegal or against what he’s supposed to be doing.”

Yet it is her intention that, since there are concerns, the city will “step back” and review the abatement process thoroughly.

“We’re here to serve the community and we want to make sure we’re doing that in the absolute best way we can.”