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Vehicle Impound request of Mindi Green re impound of 2004 Acura MDX on 9/14/13

Hearing Examiner #: HE-13-VI-040
Planning #:
Incident #:13B-37829
Filing Date:09/19/2013
City Contact:Officer Wright
Hearing Date: 10/23/2013
Description: Vehicle Impound request of Mindi Green re impound of 2004 Acura MDX on 9/14/13
Decision Date: 10/28/2013
Decision Summary:Granted.

This matter came before the Bellingham Hearing Examiner for hearing on the 23rd day of October 2013 on the request of Mindi Green regarding the impound of her 2004 Acura MDX vehicle by the Bellingham Police Department on September 14, 2013.
Testimony was received from Mindi Green, Requestor.
In addition to the Bellingham Municipal Code, the following documents were considered as part of the record: Letter from Mindi Green dated 10/16/13; Hearing Request form; Johnson's Towing Receipt #J67030 for $419.04; DOL Registration; BPD LongArm Case No. 13B-37829; and Authorization to Tow/Impound and Inventory Record.

On September 14, 2013 Bellingham Police Department Officer Alfredo Wright responded to 121 E. Chestnut Street in Bellingham regarding a vehicle parked in front of that location. The Officer observed signs posted on the street in that location indicating No Parking/Tow Away Zone effective from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on September 14, 2013 for the Fairhaven Runners 15K race that was occurring on that day. He observed a 2004 Acura MDX parked next to the sign on the street. After an unsuccessful attempt to locate the registered owner of the vehicle the officer placed a parking citation on the vehicle and contacted Johnson's Towing to have the vehicle removed. He completed an Authorization to Tow/Impound Form.
Mindi Green redeemed the vehicle on September 14, 2013, a Saturday, paying $271.50 for the tow, $23.00 for one-half days storage, and $91.00 after hours fee, plus $33.54 tax, totaling $419.04, and the vehicle was released to her.
Officers later discovered that the street had not been signed as a Tow Away Zone at least 24-hours prior to the removal of the vehicle. The Bellingham Police Department had not been informed that the signs were posted late and, therefore, the vehicle should not have been removed.
In accordance with BMC 11.33.140 and RCW 46.55.240 vehicles may only be removed from a tow-away zone if signs have been clearly posted at the zone at least 24-hours prior to the removal. This did not occur in this case. The impound was not proper.
Ms. Green also requests reimbursement for the $20.00 parking citation which she paid in order to avoid further fees, as she was directed to do by the clerk at the Police Department. However, reimbursement for the parking citation is beyond the jurisdiction of the Hearing Examiner. Ms. Green indicates that she sent a letter to Municipal Court seeking recission of the $20.00 fine.
The impound was not proper because the tow-away zone signs were not in place at least 24-hours prior to removal of the vehicle. Ms. Green should be reimbursed by the City of Bellingham for the amounts she paid to redeem the vehicle ($419.04) and the $73.00 filing fee for the hearing.

ENTERED this 28th day of October 2013.
Bellingham Hearing Examiner
Dawn Sturwold