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Department instructed not to enforce tow fees

Posted: Tuesday, Apr 15th, 2014

CONTROVERSY over the Ogle County Sheriff’ Department’s Tow Fund continues after Sheriff Michael Harn distributed an internal memo dated April 1, saying the department would no longer be collecting an administrative tow fee, despite it being a county ordinance.

The tow fund and how the money can be spent has been in question the last several months. Two months ago the Ogle County Board voted to narrow the scope of tow fund spending to include vehicle-related items and will again be discussing the issue next Tuesday.

In his memo Harn stated, “The Ogle County Sheriff’s office will no longer be enforcing the Seizure and Impoundment of Vehicles Ordinance, Division 4 Section 12-4 of the Ogle County Code of Ordinance. We will continue to tow vehicles subsequent to arrest; however, we will no longer distribute the vehicle seizure paperwork, nor require owners to remit the $350 impound fee.”

Ogle County Board Chairman Kim Gouker said the board was not aware of the memo until Tuesday, April 8, and he is not clear as to the reason behind it.

“I sent an e-mail to the sheriff asking him to reconsider but he hasn’t gotten back to me,” Gouker confirmed.

On Tuesday, the Ogle County Board Executive Committee met and unanimously agreed to bring a resolution to the full county board on Tuesday, April 15, limiting deposits into the Tow Fund only from collected fees.

The ordinance, which was passed in October 2011, allows the county to collect a $350 administrative fee to tow the vehicles of drivers arrested in cases such as a DUI or no valid drivers license arrests.

From October 2011 to November 2013, $210,400 was deposited in the tow fund. Approximately $140,000 came from the $350 fee and the remaining $70,000 came from other sources of revenue. The board will vote Tuesday on the resolution to limit the fund.

Gouker said he has asked Ogle County State’s Attorney Mike Rock to review the ordinance and determine if the sheriff can to choose whether or not to not enforce it, and hopes Harn will reconsider his decision.

In February, the county board restricted what the tow fund could be used for and put the fund under control of Treasurer John Coffman. The fund’s expenditures are now limited to police cars, their maintenance and equipment and fuel. As of Wednesday Coffman said he has not received the tow fund account.

A call to Harn for comment on Wednesday was not returned.

The county board will hold its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, April 15 at 5:30 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.

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