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TRASH VS,. TREASURE

Judge will decide if Prince Mongo's home is art or eyesore.

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Using your front lawn as an art gallery could lead to time spent in Environmental Court if your neighbors aren't happy. At least that's the case with Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges.

Hodges has been in and out of court lately regarding his collection of mannequin heads, toilet seats, plastic lawn chairs, and other assorted objects that once adorned his front yard at the corner of Colonial and Park. On September 30th, Environmental Court judge Larry Potter ordered Hodges to clean up, and he moved the collection to the backyard. Code-enforcement officers claimed he'd only rearranged the mess, and on October 28th, Hodges was found in contempt of court. An appeal of the contempt order is pending.

According to The Commercial Appeal, Hodges called his collection "art" but neighbors complained that it was a public nuisance. City code-enforcement manager Johnie McKay said anything that disturbs neighbors, whether it's art or not, can be considered a violation of the housing code.

"Anytime there's an interference where one individual causes another individual not to enjoy their home, you are in violation," said McKay.

Several weeks ago, Hodges hosted a "Zambodian Art Festival" and splattered paint over the exterior of his house. The paint could not be challenged in court due to the lack of a graffiti ordinance in the city.

According to tax-assessor records, the property actually belongs to Michael Hodges, Mongo's brother. McKay said that Michael was sent a notice regarding the violation, but since he resides out-of-state, the city is virtually powerless to do anything about it.

In June, the Flyer reported that Hodges was in compliance with the Building Department of Code Enforcement, but code inspectors for the Environmental Court have tried to prove that the property was a public nuisance

Hodges' lawyer, Johnny Rasberry, claims the only reason neighbors complain is because of the location. He said he thinks a similar situation in a less prestigious neighborhood wouldn't warrant any complaints.

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