Trafalgar Town Council member Jeff Eisenmenger holds up a notice of zoning violation sent to him on Oct. 31 by the town inspector at the town council’s Nov. 17 meeting.


A Trafalgar town council member is under fire for engaging in business practices other council members say violate town codes.

Council member Jeff Eisenmenger is a longtime business owner and realtor in Trafalgar, owning several residential and commercial properties in the area. Eisenmenger and family members also own Small Town Pizza and Sub Co. in Trafalgar.

Eisenmenger recently has faced criticism from at least three council members and many residents on several alleged violations of town codes. Alleged violations include allowing people to live in his restaurant and other commercial buildings he owns, and also allowing the repeated violation of a stop work order on another property he owns.

Eisenmenger originally agreed to an interview, but later declined to talk about the claims. He has spoken publicly in a town council meeting denying alleged zoning violations.

Zoning violation rumors mount

Rumors have circulated for years that Eisenmenger had been renting commercial spaces for residential-use — which is a violation of town zoning laws — said Jessica Jones, council president.

“We had heard rumors and complaints that there were individuals living in his business, and it wasn’t ever something that we moved forward with,” Jones said.

The town had no evidence to prove the rumors until the September arrest of Hunter Rickenbach, who was arrested on unrelated charges of possession of child pornography and methamphetamine following a Johnson County Sheriff’s Office investigation. At the time of his arrest, it was reported that Rickebach lived in a van outside a house in Franklin, but previous court records say he lived at Small Town Pizza.

According to court records filed in Franklin City Court on Aug. 25 for a traffic violation, Rickenbach reported that his home address was 106 W. Pearl St. in Trafalgar, the address of Small Town Pizza. Rickenbach was a former employee of the pizza shop, but Eisenmenger said he no longer works there on social media following news of Rickenbach’s arrest.

Still, this gave cause for the town to send its town inspector, Tim Guyer, to follow up on a zoning violation. Eisenmenger was sent a zoning violation notice for the property on Oct. 31.

Eisenmenger filed a denial letter, which he then read to the town council at its Nov. 17 meeting. He denied anyone ever living in his restaurant, and later said he felt targeted by the town, when there are other residents currently violating the zoning codes.

He said he offered Guyer and anyone from the town to visit the restaurant to inspect it, but no one responded or visited.

“There’s no one living at that property. That’s my restaurant. That’s what I can say,” Eisenmenger said at the meeting. “The board of health has been there … no one lives there.”

He then shifted to conversation to ask the town to consider a mixed-use zoning ordinance, as many properties are zoned commercial with people living in them — including houses he said he owns.

He said he could name at least 20 properties with zoning violations, including a building at Pearl and Pleasant streets converted into apartments without proper zoning. But he said he never reported anyone because he was not in the business of displacing people from their homes.

Jones then said the only reason Eisenmenger received a letter was because the address of his restaurant was listed as the residence of someone who was arrested. She added this is part of the town’s larger effort to address zoning violations in town.

“We’re looking at businesses that are housing individuals, homes that have RVs housing individuals. We’re trying to make Trafalgar better, and we’re not picking and choosing who we’re going after,” Jones said.

“But I was the first to get a letter … congratulations,” Eisenmenger responded.

Jacob Bowman, town attorney, also noted Trafalgar has several ongoing issues with zoning violations.

“The zoning violations appear to be pretty prevalent within the town of Trafalgar — a lot of people operating businesses out of their homes without permission to do so,” Bowman said. “There’s no target on anyone’s back.”

Council member Jason Ramey said the town is not on a “witch hunt” against Eisenmenger. He pointed to how the town also investigated zoning and fire system violations at the now-closed Southern Comfort Cafe earlier this year.

“I assure anybody who takes the time to report (zoning violations) that they will be investigated and looked into. That’s the point of that process,” Ramey said.

He personally wants Eisenmenger to follow the rules, as a citizen and a member of a town board.

“What’s troubling as well, is that the response (from Eisenmenger) wasn’t ‘Oh, I’ve made a mistake. How can I make it right?’ It’s ‘well, I’m not the only one,’” Ramey said. “… That’s not how an elected official or an adult responds to something.”

Eisenmenger has the opportunity to appeal the zoning violation notice before the town board of zoning appeals, which meets next on Monday.

Town sues over construction

Another issue involving Eisenmenger from earlier this year also boiled over in the form of a legal dispute with the town in October.

On Feb. 7, the town of Trafalgar issued a stop work order on the house under construction at 32 Downing Drive in the Crest Ridge Estates subdivision. The town cited violations, such as an unsafe work environment and continuing work without complete inspections.

The home is being built by Nineveh-based Brock Builders, owned by Bruce Brock. Eisenmenger is the deeded owner of the property, according to online property records.

Eisenmenger did not disclose to the town he had involvement in the property, until it was discovered after research into the property, Jones said.

“Jeff was very much aware there was a stop work order. He helped initiate the stop work order, but yet withheld information that he was the property owner,” she said.

The build site came up several more times in the March, June, August, September and October plan commission meetings, according to town minutes. Each time, it was reported work continued on the property despite the order, and several complaints from nearby residents claimed the house was “unsafe.” The town also found Brock Builders have not had a state license since 2020, according to meeting minutes.

Contractors were confronted by Guyer and police on different occasions about the stop work order, and continued work despite that, according to minutes from the Sept. 12 plan commission meeting.

Ramey, though he personally never went to the site himself, said officials and nearby homeowners were told by contractors that they were doing “what Jeff told them to do.”

“Don’t act like you didn’t know that there was a stop work order,” Ramey said. “A town council enforces, writes and imposes ordinances on the public, and if one member does not follow them themselves, and consciously and openly violates them … that’s hypocritical, there’s no other way to describe it.”

The issue escalated on Sept. 15 when the town council voted to impose a fine for each day work continued. Eisenmenger, despite owning the property, voted in favor of the fine. He did not disclose his stake in the property at the meeting.

On Sept. 16, the day after the fine was imposed Eisenmenger sent a letter to Brock Builders, telling them all work must stop. He also wrote in the letter that he has no contract with the builders.

“It is my understanding that a stop work order has been placed on the property earlier this spring. … Although you or your company, Brock Builders and I have no agreement, verbal or written, to construct a home, I also demand you stop any and all work on the premises,” Eisenmenger wrote.

Work on the property continued after that and the town of Trafalgar and town code enforcement filed a civil suit against Brock Builders and Eisenmenger on Oct. 4. The complaint addresses “unsafe premises violations,” and asks for an injunction to permanently stop the defendants from continuously violating the stop work order.

The complaint also details that work continued on the property, with photos from late September, showing equipment, trailers, trucks and materials remaining at the site, despite the builders being instructed to remove those items.

Eisenmenger later filed a response to the complaint on Dec. 2, denying the claims that work continued against the stop work order. He also filed a cross claim against his co-defendant, Brock Builders, in which he claimed he owes Brock Builders nothing.

In the cross claim, Eisenmenger says he paid Brock Builders $30,000 in June 2021 for the property at 32 Downing Drive, and in exchange, Brock took out a mortgage to repay the money. Brock never repaid and then transferred ownership of the property to Eisenmenger in November 2021, court documents say.

Brock Builders also failed to pay for building materials earlier this year, in which Eisenmenger said in the cross claim he paid $7,000 after legal action was taken in October.

Following the town filing its suit, Brock filed a mechanics lien on the property, asking Eisenmenger to pay the company $150,000. Eisenmenger asserted in the complaint he owes them nothing, and “Brock has filed the lien to slander his title to the land and that there is no justification for filing.”

A pretrial conference in the civil case is set for March 28.

‘You deceived me’

Council members have also questioned Eisenmenger about allegedly not paying water bills on his properties. A complaint from a resident came before the council on July 28, saying a fireworks store renting out space on Eisenmenger’s property at 103 State Road 135 had its water turned on, but it had not registered with the town utility to pay bills.

Eisenmenger said at the July 28 council meeting he contacted the utility clerk to inform her the water was on, and also said it was not on most of the time while that business was operating.

This happened in the midst of town officials, including Eisenmenger and Jones, claiming bulk water haulers were stealing water from the town.

“We looked into the water stuff, and at the same time, we had complaints coming in saying Jeff was stealing water at another building. Like, it seems to me that we keep having a connection here,” Jones said.

Similarly, Ramey and Jones are now questioning a small building behind Small Town Pizza that Eisenmenger rents out residentially. Eisenmenger said at the Nov. 17 council meeting that the small building is zoned residential, and has an address of 101 Kentucky St., making it separate from the commercially zoned restaurant. However, Ramey and Jones say, there is no utility bill registered with the town for that address.

Jones, who is one of the newer members on the council, said it was unfortunate to see rumors about Eisenmenger turning out to be true. She would come to Eisenmenger with issues, like the zoning violations or bulk water hauler issue, and she said she felt like he sent her “down a rabbit hole” to protect himself.

“I went up to him and said, ‘You had me fooled. You deceived me. I’m very upset with you.’ And I told him that to his face,” Jones said.

Jones and Ramey said they believe Eisenmenger “should know better,” and set a better example by following the codes he also enforces as a council member.

Ramey wants everyone to follow town rules, and Eisenmenger just has a spotlight on him because he is a public elected official, he said.

“I’m trying to stay as neutral as I can … but my goodness, if you’re an elected official, to sit there and be responsible for enforcing and imposing rules on others, then you really ought to make sure that you’re following them yourself,” Ramey said.