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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Might You Learn From a Background Check On Your Neighbor?


The United States more and more is becoming a society of haves and have nots. But one principle applies to everyone, across the economic spectrum: It's pretty much impossible to determine who can move in next door to you.

Plenty of Americans live in gated communities or build homes in the midst of vast acreage. But even they cannot prevent a crappy person, or an annoying entity, from buying the adjoining lot.

At its core, our Legal Schnauzer story is about the giant lottery we all play when it comes to neighbors. This blog grew out of the fact Mrs. Schnauzer and I could not control who moved in next door to us. And in the game of chance that plays out in neighborhoods across the country, we were unlucky enough to have a rotten individual become our next-door neighbor.

Our neighbor's name is Mike McGarity, and I have written about him at length on this blog. It's not just our opinion that he's a rotten guy--he's got the criminal record to prove it.

McGarity turned our once peaceful lives upside down. And given the number of Web sites out there about nightmarish neighbors--neighborsfromhell.com, annoyingneighbors.com--we are not alone in coming face to face with this most unpleasant problem.

How to fight back? Well, we tried the courts--after all, there are plenty of laws designed to protect your right to the quiet enjoyment of your property. But many courts around the country are corrupt, and many law enforcement agencies are inept, so legal remedies are likely to just make your problem worse. That certainly happened in our case.

There is no simple solution to dealing with a neighbor from hell. But Mrs. Schnauzer and I have learned that information can be a valuable tool. Our guess is that most people know almost nothing about the backgrounds of the people who live near them. If a neighbor starts behaving in a particularly irrational, disrespectful or belligerent fashion, you would be wise to conduct your own background check. You might be surprised at what you find--and that information can help guide you in trying to resolve the problem.

Why is background information so important? Well, you are powerless to control who moves in near you. If Charles Manson were paroled tomorrow, there's not a thing in the world to prevent him from moving next door to any of us; in some instances, Manson might be an improvement on the guy currently next door. But trust me when I say, "It helps to know what you are dealing with." If nothing else, it tells you there is a reason for the problem, that you aren't just imagining that this is a difficult person.

Don't think that living in a nice neighborhood will protect you from ever having a bad neighbor. We are a long way from wealthy, but we live in what most people probably would consider a nice, middle-class neighborhood--one with about 130 homes. McGarity has at least eight criminal convictions in his background. I would not be surprised if all of the other adults in our neighborhood, combined, do not have that many.

Also, do not assume that because a person works at a reputable company, he will be a good neighbor--or he does not have a criminal record. McGarity works at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, one of the prime employers in our area. He's worked there for 20-plus years. Blue Cross and Blue Shield, as a federal Medicare contractor, is supposed to have stringent hiring requirements, complete with background checks. But McGarity and his substantial criminal record somehow slipped through the cracks.

In August 2010, an Alabama Blue Cross employee named Latonia Davis pleaded guilty to trafficking stolen identities. Koko Mackin, a BC/BS of Alabama spokeswoman, issued the following statement on the Davis case:

"Although this is an isolated incident, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama takes the security of our members' health information seriously. We will continue to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to protect the security and integrity of our members' health information."

If BC/BS is so serious about security, why has Mike McGarity been working at the company for so long? Does he have access to members health information, and what could he do with it--given his clear record of acting in an unlawful fashion.

In a series of upcoming posts, we are going to outline Mike McGarity's criminal record. We will show you the documents that prove he is a thug. These documents go a long way toward explaining the antagonistic behavior we have witnessed almost from the moment he moved in.

The first sign of trouble with McGarity came when I called to ask if he could quiet down his dog, a coonhound mix that barked at all hours of the day and night--often for two or three hours at a time. McGarity's response? "You need to get ear plugs." When I later witnessed McGarity and others repeatedly trespassing from his property onto mine, I called to tell him to stay off our yard. "I'm going to sue your for harassment," he said. Later, he added, "We're just going to keep on coming."

Those aren't the responses of a normal person. When I checked public records and discovered McGarity's numerous arrests and convictions, I was not all that surprised. But it was a relief to have some idea of what we were dealing with.

I probably do not know the full extent of McGarity's criminality. For one thing, any juvenile or youthful-offender records are sealed. Also, I've only checked records from the Alabama state-court system and Birmingham Municipal Court. Our metro area has 30-some municipalities--and numerous small police  departments--and I haven't been able to check those. I also have not checked for possible offenses in other states.

But the eight convictions I've uncovered tell me all I really need to know about Mike McGarity. These are misdemeanor offenses, but one involves violence and one involves sex, so we are talking about someone who has tip-toed to the edge of serious criminal behavior.

In state court, McGarity has a drug-possession charge for which he confessed guilt, but the case was nol-prossed. Following is his record of convictions in Birmingham Municipal Court. We will provide details about these offenses in upcoming posts.

(Note: Municipal-court records have McGarity listed under three names--Michael L. McGarity, Michael Laird McGarity, and Michael McGarity. His birthdate is listed as 7/27/59 on two of the records and is incorrectly listed as 7/27/55 on another.)

(To be continued)


Mike McGarity Criminal Record

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do they know about him? Maybe they don't.. How do you do a background investigation... I need to do one on a son in law!

legalschnauzer said...

I assume BC/BS doesn't know about this guy. Perhaps someone screwed up in the background-check process. Maybe they just didn't do one.

To do a thorough background check probably requires professional help. I gathered my information by going to my nearest county courthouse and the municipal court building. Most courts have public computers these days that you can use to look up both criminal and civil cases. The computer setups can range from the very easy to use to very hard. But usually, you can ask a clerk to help get you started.

It helps to have full name, date of birth. It also helps to be looking up a person who hasn't moved around a lot. My guy has lived his whole live, best I can tell, in Birmingham, so that makes it pretty easy. If a person has lived in several states, that makes it harder.

If the name is fairly common, you need to make sure you are looking at information for the right person. Good luck.

jeffrey spruill said...

Sounds as if Mike McGarity wanted trouble. He didn't know what he was asking for did he Mr. Schnauzer?

Looking forward to reading more about this guy!

legalschnauzer said...

Jeff:

If you look at this guy's history, he repeatedly has gotten away with a slap on the wrist for most everything. He's never really been held accountable by anyone--or least that's what the public record shows.

Anonymous said...

This story brings to mind how society no longer seems to care if someone in a powerful position has alcohol or drug addiction issues. Let's take the presiding judge of Jefferson County Court, Brian Huff, for instance.

Judge Huff was appointed in 2005 by Bob Riley to fill the seat vacated by Judge Sandra Ross Storm. He was then elected to that position in 2006.

Sandra Ross Storm can be found on the bench in Family Court on just about any given day. Why? I have been told that it is due to Judge Huff's addiction. I have heard that he has been in rehab since assuming his current position.

He hopes to be re-elected. If there is one office where we need a sober person, it would have to be this one. So many lives are at stake, especially young ones. I encourage everyone, not to just vote against Huff, but to campaign against him, for the kid's sake.

Anonymous said...

I've read that some marketing association awarded Obama's marketing team their top award for best marketing of the year. I don't think it was meant as a joke either. I don't think buy this house and you will have an asshole for your neighbor will win any marketing awards. I too wonder where to turn for professional background checks. Once you've experienced being thrown under the bus by the lawyer you are paid to protect your interest your faith in all professions is shaken. Somehow the investigative profession strikes me as a profession unlikely to go untouched by corruption. I haven't read or heard of cases of corruption in the investigative profession but I thought you could trust your lawyer to represent you too.