Motorists question town of Beloit towing policy

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Sunday, January 27, 2008
— It was a $104 speeding ticket.

Now she might lose her van.

A town of Beloit police officer ordered Tammy Brewster’s van towed after she slid into a ditch Jan. 4. Brewster, who lives in Beloit, had been driving on a revoked license.

The department’s policy for drivers with suspended or revoked licenses says “officers will not leave the vehicle where stopped, call the vehicle owner or wait for a licensed driver to arrive. Vehicle will be towed immediately.”

But Brewster said her sister-in-law, a licensed driver, was there to drive the van home before the tow truck arrived. Brewster doesn’t think she should have to pay for the tow or the police department’s administrative towing fee.

The department charges a $100 administrative fee to pay for the officer to wait for the tow truck to arrive. The fee went up from $75 on Jan. 1.

Brewster contacted The Janesville Gazette after reading a Jan. 6 article about the department’s towing policy and the fact that an Evansville attorney considers it illegal.

To get her van back, Brewster must pay the administrative fee to the department. Then she has to pay D&J Towing, 452 Acorn Drive, Beloit, $125 for the tow plus a $25 per day outside storage fee that started Jan. 6.

As of Wednesday, she owed the towing company $575.

Brewster got one break. Officer Mike Bogdonas forgot the department’s administrative fee had gone up, so Brewster only owes the department $75 in addition to the $105 for driving on a revoked license and $120 for driving too fast for conditions.

In a vehicle sale/junk notice dated Jan. 8, D&J Towing informed Brewster that—per Wisconsin statutes—her car will be sold to cover the cost of the tow if it’s not picked up by Monday.

Brewster said she didn’t know her license had been revoked when she was driving through the snow the morning of Jan. 4 to take her son to the bus stop.

She’d been ticketed Sept. 18 by town of Beloit police for driving 45 mph in a 25 mph zone. Brewster has not paid the ticket.

At 7 a.m. Jan. 4, Brewster, of 409 Central Ave., Beloit, slid into the ditch on St. Lawrence Avenue near Paddock Road. She called her brother, who has a winch on his pickup, to pull her out.

A few cars stopped to see if she needed help. Then Bogdonas stopped.

Brewster said she told Bogdonas her brother and sister-in-law were on the way. In the incident report, Bogdonas wrote that Brewster indicated her brother was going to tow the car.

Her brother arrived while Bogdonas was running Brewster’s license, and her brother made several attempts to pull Brewster’s 1993 Chevrolet Lumina minivan out of the ditch.

That’s when a tow truck arrived from D&J.

“He (Bogdonas) watched my brother struggling to pull this thing out of the ditch,” Brewster said. “It took him about half an hour. Then he turns around and calls a tow truck.”

Brewster said her brother pulled the van to the top of the ditch and could have driven it out.

Bogdonas was following the department’s policy for towing cars that get pulled over during aggravated traffic stops such as drunken driving or driving on a revoked license. Officers will not wait for a licensed driver to arrive.

Brewster said Bogdonas wouldn’t allow her sister-in-law drive the van because she wasn’t in it when Brewster slid off the road.

Town of Beloit Police Chief John Wilson declined to comment. Previously, he told the Gazette the administrative fee is proof that the town takes traffic violations seriously and punishes violators thoroughly.

The policy was written by former town attorney Ken Forbeck, who now is a Rock County Judge.

The Gazette was unable to reach Bogdonas for comment.

The town of Beloit in 2007 took in $39,950 after charging administrative fees for 505 tows.

Last updated: 12:47 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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