Driver wins court battle over erroneous tow, but could wait months for refund


A driver fought a city-issued ticket in court and won.

So why is it going to take months before he sees his money back?

In July, Scott Bell had his vehicle towed on Date Street. The realtor parks there every day for work, but moves his car before 3:30 p.m.

Posted signs state drivers cannot park along that section of Date Street from 3:30 to 7 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.

July 7 was a typical Friday for Bell: Park his car on Date Street in the morning and go to work.

He walked back at around 3 p.m. to find his car gone.

“My heart sunk. Where’s my car? There were no signs here when I parked here along with the other seven or eight cars parked,” he said. “At that point in time, there were signs when I got here at 3:05.”

Bell learned his car, and several others, got towed. HPD issued him a $50 parking infraction for parking in a tow-away zone.

“The police officer was wondering why when I called (to ask) ‘What happened on Date Street? Why did everybody get towed?'” Bell said.

There were city signs lining the curb that Bell says were not there when he parked his car in the morning. He took a photo of the sign, which read “No Parking, 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Monday-Friday starting Monday 6/19/17.”

He got towed July 9. The signs were wrong.

Bell said he paid his ticket because he wanted to do the right thing. He also paid $186 in towing fees.

But he went to court on Aug. 30, armed with photographs to explain his predicament to the judge. He says his interaction with the judge was quick, unlike the explanation he got from the city.

“I went before the judge. She ruled in my favor saying it did not happen properly. She goes, ‘Mr. Bell, you can have your money back.’ I said, ‘What about my towing fees?’ She said, ‘You’ll have to file it with corporation counsel at the mayor’s office,'” said Bell.

He filed a claim with corporation counsel and was told it could take months to get his $186 back, because they need to investigate.

“They take your money in one day, and it takes six or seven months to get it back. I was questioning, why an investigation when a sitting judge in the state ruled in my favor? I do believe there should be an appropriate time to manage that and not manage taxpayers time with waste,” Bell said.

We called the city and asked for an interview to explain the process. Instead, Corporation Counsel Donna Leong stood by this statement:

“Your viewer submitted his claim to the Department of the Corporation Counsel (COR) on September 11, 2017 and apparently called you on September 12, 2017. You forwarded his email to COR on September 12, 2017. The viewer received the same information that all claimants receive: it may take up to six months to process a claim. This is due to the volume of claims received and the limited resources available to respond to those claims. If the claim is one that can be confirmed quickly, it will not take six months; however we do need to confirm the validity of the claim before we can issue any payment. We believe we should be able to resolve this particular claim shortly.”

“If you have paperwork stating a sitting judge ruled in my favor, why should there be an investigation? It should be okayed by the manager. I know government takes time. Be reasonable. To take six to seven months is a little too long,” said Bell.

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