Friday, July 28, 2017
[San Bernardino County] People whose vehicles were towed by Apple Valley school police await answers
APPLE VALLEY — Since the results of a Grand Jury investigation on school district police here were published two weeks ago, many people have come forward to claim they were wrongly charged upon having their vehicles towed.
A San Bernardino County Civil Grand Jury Report released recently found that the Apple Valley Unified School District Police Department (AVUSD-PD) ordered 727 vehicles towed in three years and wrongly collected a charge for each vehicle release, many of which they had no authority to cite and tow.
Without speculating whether or not district employees violated sections of the Penal Code and could be charged with crimes, the Grand Jury recommended that an “appropriate state agency” open an investigation into the matter.
The jury also recommended the district refund any towing and storage fees paid by vehicle owners denied the opportunity to request a tow hearing, and refund monies collected for Vehicle Release fees, which were increased from $95 to $120 by vote the AVUSD Board of Trustees in May 2015.
Jessica McClain said her car was among the “unknown number of privately owned vehicles” that were lien sold by the tow company utilized by AVUSD for fees and towing charges accrued, and now she’s seeking a refund. McClain said she was “insured and licensed” when she was cited on April 25 due to expired registration.
“They left me and my 7-week-old and 2-year-old on the side of the road while they impounded our vehicle,” McClain said. She claimed that by the fourth day, the fees had racked up to almost $2,000. “I paid my ticket — it was my first ticket ever — and I lost my vehicle. Because of that, I’ve had no way to even take my babies to the doctor.”
Several others said they were charged in the $500 to $800 range when towed, including a 25-year-old who requested anonymity.
“I was pulled over ... for a cracked windshield ... I had a suspended license for not paying an old traffic ticket,” she said, noting she was towed on a Friday afternoon. “I was unable to get my truck out until I had a driver with a valid license to drive (it) ... The district office was closed by the time it was towed and would not be open until Monday. I had to wait until Tuesday to pick up my truck with my father paying.”
She said they paid $570.
“I missed my (job) training because of the incident and sequentially had a difficult time paying back my father,” she said. “I would just like the $120 back so I can give a thank you to my dad for helping me.”
AVUSD officials have not responded to questions from the Daily Press, directing them to legal representatives.
Margaret A. Chidester, whose law office spoke on behalf of AVUSD, told the Daily Press when the report came out that the district “voluntarily responded to all requests for documents and testimony” from the Grand Jury and “has already begun to examine school police practices and to make improvements in procedures.”
Chidester said the district “will faithfully consider the report’s recommendations” and respond to its findings as legally required. She said the Board of Trustees needs to consider the report. Their next regularly scheduled meeting is set for Aug. 3.
The district has not yet announced anything in terms of possible reimbursement to those who’ve been towed by AVUSD-PD.
July 14, 2017
By Charity Lindsey