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It's Not a Crime to Let Things Go

July 24, 1993|PAULA JHUNG

Mom's warning, "You better clean that room before I call the health department," is pretty much a hollow threat according to Bob Merryman, director of the Orange County Environmental Health Division.

"A person's home is his kingdom," said Merryman, whose department generally takes a hands-off attitude until migrating vermin or a fire hazard threatens the health and safety of the neighborhood.

Even then, the health department has little legal authority, according to Merryman, who often refers offenders to a social services agency for counseling, or contacts a service group to clean things up.

"If you choose to live that way, that's your choice," he said. "You're protected by the Constitution, and bureaucrats and regulators shall not trespass."

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