Name mixup leads to arrest threat against Blue Springs man accused of not maintaining KC property

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's obvious from first glance, a vacant house on East 10th Street in Kansas City has become an eyesore. The grass and weeds have grown so tall you can barely find the front door, and neighbors have had enough.

That's why Kansas City's code's department did what it's supposed to do: cited the owner for not maintaining the property. The owner, according to Jackson County property records, is Charles B. Harris.

That's where this problem starts.

The warning letters and citation notices all landed in the mailbox of the wrong Charles B. Harris, who goes by Brad, lives in Blue Springs, and is about 40 years younger than the Charles B. Harris who actually owns the home.

When Brad Harris received the city's first warning notice, he said he immediately called the codes department to let them know they had contacted the wrong Charles B. Harris.

"They said they were going to make a note of it in their system and then I left it at that," Harris said, thinking the mix up would be resolved.

Then he got a second letter - a notice of violation -- with a $100 fine. Harris called the city again. Again he received another promise that the codes department would straighten out the mix up. That never happened.

"The third notice was to appear in court for not paying the fine," Harris recalled.

Harris immediately contacted the courthouse, but a court employee told him there was nothing he could do, Harris would have to contact the city.

"So I spoke to them again," Harris said. "They said they would make a note of it in the system. So that's three times they said they would make a note of it in the system that it is not me."

The next letter to arrive in Harris' mail was a warrant for his arrest for failing to show up in court.

"It was pretty shocking," Harris said.

Harris hired an attorney and enlisted a title company so that he could gather enough information to prove to the Housing Court judge that he is not the Charles B. Harris that owns the house on 10th Street. A judge found him innocent.

The actual homeowner is an 80-year-old man who lives in an assisted living facility in Kansas City, Kansas. FOX 4 Problem Solvers figured that out after only a few minutes of searching public record, which is something the city also could have done.

The elderly Mr. Harris told Problem Solvers that he also isn't responsible for the high weeds because he gave the property back to the bank two years ago, although that transaction is not listed in county records. So what does the city have to say?

"We are looking into what went wrong and trying to improve and streamline the process so that it doesn't happen again," said Kansas City spokesman John Baccala.

Harris said the city codes department needs to have better communication with city prosecutors -- so that mistakes can be corrected before they get to court. But Harris said he has learned one lesson from the entire ordeal: The next time he gets a notice to show up in court , he'll definitely show up. That way he won't have to worry about a warrant being issued for his arrest for a crime he never committed.