A Carrabelle man claims to own several downtown properties.
At the Dec. 6 Carrabelle city meeting, Johnnie Crum told commissioners he has documents proving he owns the Fourth Street boat ramp.
At the meeting, he initially requested to speak to City Attorney Dan Hartman in private, but when told the meeting was public and he was on the agenda, he addressed the commission.
Crum arrived late, accompanied by about a dozen family members who caused a minor disturbance by talking loudly as they entered until reprimanded by Mayor Curley Messer.
Hartman and the commissioners expressed confusion about Crum’s claims and said the matter would have to be settled in court.
“The city claims that property and has improved the property,” Hartman said. “You need a judge to say which of the two chains of ownership is valid. The city cannot give you that property.”
Hartman later referred to the paperwork Crum had presented as a “wild deed,” a claim where there are multiple chains of possession for the same land. Crum asserted to city commissioners that his family had paid taxes on the land in the past; Hartman said it had been in the 1930s.
The city attorney said the city purchased the boat ramp from Jimmy Crowder in 1999.
“It is not unusual. I’ve seen it happen,” he said. “It’s a common misconception that paying taxes on a piece of property gives you ownership. It does not. I’ve been through the paperwork (Crum) provided and I’ve seen the city deed. It’s unclear. We’ve obviously got a bunch of deeds applying to this property. We need a court of law to tell us where we stand.”
Hartman said Crum has paperwork claiming ownership of other properties as well.
“As your commissioner if that is your property I want you to have it,” Commissioner Charlotte Schneider told Crum. “You really should seek the guidance of an attorney. The city can’t just say we’re going to turn over the property.”
Crum maintained that early transactions involving the land had been, “written up wrong.”
Hartman told him, ”The way to get to the bottom of this is to file suit.”
Crum said he had an attorney and complained about the cost of representation. “He charges me every time he does something. We are trying to work this out with the city as least a possible,” he said. “My family’s poor with young’uns to raise. My grandparents have died off. I can show you in 30 minutes.”
Schneider said, “You can show me but I’m not an attorney.”
Messer told Crum that “this will have to be fought out in court. We could sit up here and give the property away and that would set us up for a liability suit. I’m not going to be put in jail for nobody.”
Commissioner Frank Mathes told Crum, “We can’t give it to you. It belongs to the people of Carrabelle. It’s got to go before a judge. It’s not ours to give. That belongs to the people.”
Crum said eh would prefer to reach a settlement with the city, “You don’t get clear title until you’ve had it for 30 years and a day. I think it’s in the best interest to handle it out of court,” he said.
“This has obviously been going on in your family for a long time,” Commissioner Cal Allen told Crum. “The best way to get closure is to get it over with.”