Goodwill ministry cited as public nuisance

Henry Parmenter digs through boxes in his back yard on the 1300 block of Reid Street. He was cited in Municipal Court for leaving items he collects for the poor scattered in his front, back and adjacent yards. CNJ photo by Mike Linn.

By Mike Linn, CNJ news editor

A Clovis man who runs what he calls a “free market” out of his home, back yard and adjacent property is facing petty misdemeanor charges for violating the city’s public nuisance code.

Henry Parmenter, 74, said he has been giving away clothes, furniture, appliances, children’s toys and a variety of other goods out of his home at the 1300 block of Reid Street for almost five years.

But the man who describes himself as an “excommunicated” minister has been storing the goods in such a fashion — he now keeps five couches in a vacant back yard next door, and a 30-foot cluster of item-filled boxes in his back yard — that city officials have intervened.

“I don’t have a problem with him giving away stuff, that’s not the issue,” Municipal Judge Jan Garrett said. “But he has to follow city code.”

One definition of public nuisance is defined as keeping property in such a manner and length of time that it annoys and endangers the comfort, health and safety of the public. In Parmenter’s case, Garrett said she is concerned about furniture and appliances left outdoors for long periods of time that may invite rodents, and any standing water that would attract mosquitoes.

Garrett said Parmenter can still run his free market as long as he stores all his items indoors, something that came as a shock to Parmenter on Monday.

“That’s a blessing to hear,” he said.

Initially, Parmenter believed city officials were trying to shut down his ministry altogether. In his order to show cause filed on July 6, the order reads he is to “immediately stop operating what he terms a ‘Free Market’ and placing objects in his front yard, back yard …”

But Garrett said the order should read that he is to stop operating the free market by placing objects in a manner that violate city code.

Garrett said Parmenter also showed up in her court last August and was fined $300 with $250 suspended on the condition he remove all furniture, rugs, carpet, clothing, toys, boxes and other items from his front yard and adjacent properties and that he keep his garage door closed at all times.

Garrett said he complied last year, but has since violated the city nuisance code again. Photos taken by city officials reveal Parmenter’s front yard was littered with appliances and furniture, items that have since been moved to an adjacent yard and also in violation of city code.

Garrett is scheduled to review the most recent case with Parmenter on Aug. 4.

Jerry White, who helps Parmenter with his ministry, said had he been in Parmenter’s position he would have cleaned up better, but noted his disdain for city codes.

“It’s just like the time of Jesus, that’s why he was crucified, because he didn’t follow all the laws of the Pharisees,” White said.

White and Parmenter said between five and 10 groups of people show daily to collect merchandise at the free market.
On Monday afternoon Parmenter helped a man pick out a pair of jeans and a few shirts from his collection of over 100 boxes of used apparel in his living room.

“I enjoy ministering to the needs of people, and if I can’t minister to the needs of people I’d just as soon be in prison,” Parmenter said.