BROOKSVILLE - Last week, Mark Davis was helping county code enforcement officers nail unlicensed tree removal companies preying on unsuspecting residents.
Today, he is barred from even talking with county staffers because of a trespass order issued Monday by Chris Linsbeck, the county's zoning supervisor/administrative official.
Linsbeck called the situation unfortunate, especially since Davis' intentions are honorable. But Linsbeck said he had no choice because of what he calls Davis' "aggressive and unacceptable behavior in the office in front of staff and customers.
"It has reached a point where the employees are uncomfortable when he comes into the building, and they have expressed feelings of harassment," Linsbeck said in an email to Hernando Today. "We have spoken with Mr. Davis several times and asked him to control his temper.
"Despite our requests, Mr. Davis continues his aggressive and harassing behavior causing tension and anxiety in the office, forcing us to take further action," Linsbeck added.
Davis said he is not allowed to walk into the building department or call the office.
The trespass order came as a surprise because last week Linsbeck called Davis the county's "local vigilante" who has done a good job of canvassing the area and snagging these shady workers who remove trees without a proper license.
Most of the county's reports of illegal activity involving unlicensed or unpermitted tree service firms come from Davis, he said.
But Linsbeck cited two occasions last week where he believes Davis stepped over the line in his behavior.
Linsbeck said he consulted the county administrator and legal office before approving the trespass order. He stressed the action will not affect the county's response to unlicensed or unpermitted activities.
Davis, who works for his son's company, Jon Davis Tree Service, said he visits the building department most every day to tip employees off on illegal contractors but denies he harasses them or is rude.
He believes the county is trying to silence him because it doesn't want to take the time to investigate all his complaints.
"It's easier to trespass me then for them to do the work," he said.
Davis said he will still turn in violators and instead of giving them to the building department he will turn them in to the county administrator's office.
Davis, owner of a local tree service, said he is tired of all the unlicensed contractors in Hernando County and has staked out areas where he's spotted illegal tree services before reporting them to the county. Davis told Hernando Today he doesn't think the county has been as diligent as it could in going after these firms.
Davis said these criminals not only undercut him because they don't have the overhead of paying workers compensation and other fees but residents stand a good chance of receiving inferior work.
Linsbeck admits that he is working with a small staff and cannot get to all of Davis' reports as fast as either would like. Davis, he said, often wants he and his staff to drop everything and only go after these tree firms.
Most recently, Davis was responsible for alerting the county to alleged illegal tree removal work at a home on Belvedere Street in Spring Hill.
Linsbeck said the department responded twice and determined that there was evidence of unlicensed activity and is continuing the investigation.