Allegedly blackmailed codes officer resigns post

In the wake of a criminal investigation in which he allegedly was blackmailed and accused of engaging in a sexual affair with a woman during work hours, a city codes enforcement officer resigned Thursday, putting additional stress on a department that remains understaffed and must handle the inspection of a city of 30,000 people.

Ousted officer Charles Wentzell was asked to resign and voluntarily stepped down after three years of employment, according to city Codes Administrator Joseph Gerardi, who said that losing an otherwise “good employee with a positive attitude who went down the wrong road,” will pinch his department this summer.

According to city police, on Jan. 28, Wentzell went to 325 Rural Ave. three times in his function as a codes officer. One of the residents of the structure was Kimberly Carol Hilfirty, 47, and a relationship developed between the two.

The code violation was a report of excessive cat litter and feces and hoarding, police said.

Hilfirty and Wentzell would meet occasionally by accident and exchange pleasantries, police said.

Earlier this month, Hilfirty met with Wentzell at her place of employment downtown and soon after the alleged extortion took place, police said.

Gerardi said the codes department already has one position it must fill part-time due to another code officer’s extended illness and medical leave. “We will hire for filling a vacancy and readvertise for Wentzell’s position,” he said.

Gerardi said the investigation doesn’t changed his or his staff’s approach.

“Hopefully,” he said, “the public will understand and go on and (let us) do our job.” But it’s going to take a toll, at least temporarily on those filling out inspection forms, doing site inspections, checking on code violations and other duties.

Gerardi said he will ask for assistance from zoning officer Gary Knarr and said he also will pick up some slack.

Gerardi said he is hopeful residents understand if they place a complaint why the department might not be able to immediately respond.