Civil suit threatened against, appeal aimed at Chapel Hill

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Lewisburg bail bondsman has vowed not to pay Chapel Hill $199 in fines and court costs, says he'll appeal, and was to meet with his attorney this week to fine-tune a complaint alleging selective enforcement.

Michael Farrar claims he was targeted when he was charged during the Lions Club tractor pull. Farrar rented a couple's front yard at the end of the track for $100 instead of paying the Lions $500 for space beside the track. Merchandise and food were sold in the front yard without a transient business permit.

Farrar's attorney, John Norton of Shelbyville, argued a transient business permit wasn't needed because the town code is vague. It doesn't say an exemption from the required permit exists only for businesses with a regular business permit issued by Chapel Hill. But Town Judge Bill Haywood ruled business permits from Lewisburg, like Farrar's, don't count.

"The ordinance is fair," Town Administrator Mike Hatten said Monday when asked if the town might clarify the law. "That's something our attorney is looking into to make it more clear, but we feel it's clear and something an ordinary person would understand as they read it."

Nevertheless, Farrar received the only two tickets issued by Chapel Hill Police Chief Jackie King for not having a transient permit when others weren't cited to town court, the bondsman said in an interview on Friday.

"Vendors set up tents two doors down where they sold wood products," Farrar said. "I asked Chief King ‘Once you leave my tent, are you going to those other two tents and write them a ticket?'" According to Farrar, he replied, ‘I was only told by Mayor [Carl] Cooper and Mr. Hatten to cite you to court.'

"It's on tape, it's transcribed and sent to a business to verify the accuracy of the transcript," Farrar said.

He and others rented parking spaces for people going to the tractor pull. The bondsman alleged discrimination, claiming the chief apparently told him the wood craftsmen and parking vendors weren't cited because they have Chapel Hill business permits.

Chief King was told their conversation was recorded, Farrar said, but that's not the only recording made. Video was shot of a Lions Club member who stopped traffic on U.S. 31A to re-route motorists to another street instead of in front of Farrar's hamburger stand and where he offered four-wheelers for sale.

Farrar also alleges the ticket sales counter -- operated from a trailer -- was moved to a place further from his business, and one entrance gate was closed.

Hatten said, "The location in which we sell tickets has not changed ever since I've remembered, at the south gate."

Frequently, professional courtesy is extended to alert a potential defendant that a civil complaint is to be filed, but if it was, Hatten didn't get the message.

"I did not know" that Farrar was going to sue, the town administrator said.

Civil litigation would be in addition to Farrar's appeal to Marshall County Circuit Court where town Judge Haywood's ruling would be challenged, the bondsman said. Furthermore, he hasn't paid the two $50 fines for the two citations, or the $99 levied for court costs.

"At this point in time he has not" paid the fine, Hatten said Monday.

Asked when such fines and costs become delinquent if not paid, Hatten replied, "That's a Todd Moore question." Moore is the town's attorney.

"At some point in time they [fines and costs] do become delinquent, but I do not know when that is," Hatten said. "Judge Bill Haywood didn't say when they'd become delinquent, but that could be in 30 days like traffic tickets."

Haywood's ruling was issued Oct. 5.

And was Hatten aware of any offer or negotiation to modify the ruling?

"No," he replied. "At this time, the town feels like the ruling is fair."