MORRISTOWN -- A painting on the retaining wall of a Mills Street home is a caricature of a town property maintenance inspector who has issued citations to the self-proclaimed hippies who live there.
Jeffrey and Barbara Broido have received several summonses issued by town property maintenance inspector Hernan Velez over the years. Property maintenance records indicate they were fined $100 for the following violations:
• On April 11, 2007, for having peeling paint on their house;
• On May 8, 2005 and again that year in October for untrimmed hedges that were encroaching on town sidewalks;
• On Feb. 25, for not removing snow from a sidewalk promptly.
Jeffrey Broido said they believe their house is in good shape, though it would be even better if they had more money. He said he was laid off from his last full-time job about seven years ago, and he currently makes a living as an artist and selling things on eBay.
The latest violation, which they received last month, was for having what property maintenance officials described as a structurally deficient retaining wall.
Jeffrey Broido, who has lived in the house for 28 years, said he paid the $139 violation though he didn't believe the wall was deficient. He said he believes the summons had more to do with aesthetics.
Over a period of several years, Jeffrey Broido said the L-shaped wall surrounding their property on the corner of Mills Street and Tuxedo Place has been struck numerous times by speeding cars.
Every time a car struck their 150-foot long, 2 -foot high wall, Broido patched the wall with liquid concrete. Over time, the colors began to fade, and some patched spots stood out more than others.
Jeffrey Broido said Velez told him that the wall looked awful and said it had to be painted. The homeowner said that Velez told him that he could "paint anything on the wall as long as it is maintained."
The idea for the caricature came over the weekend when the couple was discussing their story with friends. One of those friends is an artist -- as is Barbara Broido -- and suggested the caricature, which Barbara painted late last month.
The image has Velez sporting a black flattop haircut and wearing a collar shirt, against a yellow bubble, giving it a pop art-like sensibility. The image was based on a photo of Velez on the town Web site.
Broido said Velez told him when he visited the couple's house that he found the image insulting and told him to take it down.
"I said you should think of it as honoring you," Broido said.
Velez declined to comment on the caricature.
Mayor Donald Cresitello, who lives on the same street as the couple, said he hadn't seen the mural but didn't think it was very nice of the couple to pick on a town employee.
"He is just doing his job," Cresitello said, adding that town neighborhoods are frequently checked for property maintenance.
"I doubt he was being overzealous."
He said he doesn't know for sure if the couple was violating any town codes with the image, adding that "there might be a freedom of speech issue" in play.
Jeffrey Broido said the picture is not meant to be offensive, and they are not being vindictive.
"It's just sort of a practical joke," he said. "We didn't say anything bad about him."
The mayor joked the image of Velez should be replaced with one of himself.
"I wouldn't have a problem with that," Cresitello said.
Minhaj Hassan can be reached at (973) 267-9038 or firstname.lastname@example.org.