by Bruce Anderson, October 14, 2010
A Coast couple was off to Mexico for the winter of 2008, secure, they thought, that their home and aged pets, a dog and a cat, were in capable, responsible hands.
“I found her on the internet on an Australia-based website,” says the lady of the house as she begins her sad tale of her adventures in housesitters. “At the time she was housesitting in Scotland. She presented very well online, but the reality was horrible.”
And almost ruinous.
“She” was Miss Shelley Connolly who soon arrived in Mendocino to occupy for the agreed upon four months, the comfortable home of Mr. and Mrs. Coast.
A versatile young woman from Chico, Miss Connolly has variously earned her way as a house sitter, golf instructor, and musician.
Miss Connolly travels a lot.
But she had agreed to care for the Coasts' home and their two pets while the retired couple enjoyed four serene months in Mexico.
Serene was not to be.
The Coasts soon learned that their family member nearest to Mendocino, a resident of Reno, had been summoned by Miss Connolly to come to the Coasts' home in Mendocino. Pronto, too, because Miss Connolly had her own travel plans.
Abandoning her house sitting duties for 23 of the first 60 days of her 120-day agreement to live in the Coasts' home and care for their pets, Miss Connolly had gone off to North Carolina and then left the North American continent altogether for a jaunt to Ireland.
Reno is a long way from Mendocino, but the Reno relative, putting his own life on hold, had hustled west to watch the house and its geriatric dog and cat.
Miss Connolly's sudden wanderlusts were, to say the least, inconvenient to the couple trying to relax in Mexico.
Soon fully aware that the wandering lass from Butte County was on the road more than she was tending their homestead in Mendocino, the Coasts hurried home.
Mrs. Coast resumes her lament.
“ I found she not only wasn't there, but she had changed the locks and trashed the house. A few days after I got back, she called to say that she would be gone even longer.”
A house sitter who changes the locks on the house she's sitting then abandons that house for her own vacations seems to be a Mendocino County housesitting first. It may also be a national housesitting first.
Miss Connolly was fired.
Their home converted to a slob's den in their absence, their pets disoriented and lonely, the Coasts could not have known that their ordeal had just begun.
They got the full picture when Miss Connolly sued them.
“I kicked her out and kept her $500 security deposit,” remembers the indignant Mrs. Coast as if there just might be a person alive somewhere who would have done different.
But Miss Connolly thought she was the wronged party. Miss Connolly soon found herself in the dependably arbitrary embrace of Ten Mile Justice Court Judge Jonathan Lehan where the judge, true to form, doubled the confusion and tripled the Coasts' costs, emotional and fiscal.
Miss Connolly bamboozled the judge who soon came up with one of his typically befuddled decisions.
When she wasn't in court, Miss Connolly picked up a few non-housesitting bucks giving golf lessons and playing her banjo in local bars.
“ She is a pub performer, and boy, did she give a grand performance in court,” Mrs. Coast remembers. “But I couldn't believe that Lehan believed her lies. And he wouldn't allow me to rebut!”
The judge seemed dimly aware that Miss Connolly wasn't entirely on the up and up because he awarded her only $102 of the $2000 she'd sought.
But the $102 was just enough to make Miss Connolly think she had a case.
Miss Connolly promptly appealed. She said Judge Lehan's ruling had been defective, wrong even.
Meantime, the Coasts otherwise unblemished credit rating took a big whack.
“Unbeknownst to me,” Mrs. Coast says, “court judgments are reported to the three credit reporting companies, and stay there for 7 years. It made my credit rating drop by nearly 200 points, even though she was paid and the amount was small.”
In the gimlet-eyed worldview of the credit companies, a judgment is a judgment, warranted or not. It doesn't matter if you promptly pay the full amount judged against you, in this case a measly $102, and it doesn't matter if your credit history is otherwise unblemished. It goes down in the Big Book of Credit that you were in court and you paid a judgment.
Miss Connolly's appeal soon arrived in Ukiah before the more clear-sighted Judge LaCasse. LaCasse wasted no time informing the disbelieving Miss Connolly that since she was the plaintiff and had in any case received money for doing a job she hadn't done, she couldn't appeal.
Miss Connolly went right off on LaCasse.
“Judge Lehan made the wrong decision, and I want my money! money! money! money!”
Miss Connolly didn't get the money! money! money!
About here it might be appropriate to take a dictionary break.
“Sociopath: n. A person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme anti-social attitudes and behavior.”
The brazen Butte beaut had somehow gotten herself a free attorney and was again in court, a year after she'd first appeared at the Coasts' unsuspecting family home in Mendocino.
At her third hearing of her non-case, Judge John Behnke, echoing Judge LaCasse, told Miss Connolly that her petsitting performance and her grotesque pursuit of more money from her victims, would now cost her $102 plus $50 in court costs.
Judge Behnke awarded Miss Connolly $0.
And she has enormously complicated the Coasts' ability to help their daughter refinance her home because one of the national credit rating companies has yet to erase Judge Lehan's incompetent judgement against the Coasts.
Miss Connolly has since moved on.
She's now housesitting in Seattle.