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 Carthage Insurer Denies New Castle Woman’s Claim

February 28 2007 - The insurer for the town of Carthage has denied a claim made by a New Castle woman who says the town violated her civil rights.

Alta Magee of New Castle filed a Notice of Tort Claim with the town in early January. She claims that two trucks on her property at 6 W. Mill St. in Carthage were tagged for towing by Town Marshal Mike Onkst last July, while others, including those owned by town officials and employees, were not.

"On Sunday, July 23, 2006, I drove around the town of Carthage taking Polaroid pictures of untagged and unlicensed vehicles on residential property that were not tagged and towed away at the owner's expense," Magee wrote in her notice. "Some of these vehicles are owned by members of the Carthage Town Council; employees of the town of Carthage; other vehicles are owned by a Rush County deputy sheriff; none of which were tagged and towed."

As a result of the alleged disparate treatment, Magee claimed her "civil rights have been violated once again." Her notice states that the amount of her damages is "unknown at this time," and that she is, therefore, making a claim for $300,000, which she erroneously said is the maximum allowed by statute.

(The maximum has been raised to $500,000 for claims arising between January 1, 2006, and January 1, 2008. - Ed.)

In a letter dated February 19, Marie Koll, a claims examiner for Midwest Claims Service, told Magee her claim has been denied. Following an investigation of the incident, Koll said MCS found no negligence on the part of the town with respect to the towing of Magee's vehicles.

"The officer followed all procedures pursuant to … statutory law," Koll wrote to Magee. "The officer tagged your vehicle, listed it in his vehicle log and waited 72 hours to pass before towing the vehicle."

News of MCS's denial of Magee's claim was announced by Carthage Town Council President Rick Bush during Monday evening's regular monthly meeting. In reference to Magee's claim that her civil rights had been violated, Bush said, "I'm pretty sure Martin Luther King (Jr.) had nothing to do with towing vehicles." Indiana requires persons wanting to sue governmental entities like cities and towns, to submit a Notice of Tort Claim to the governmental entity and a state agency called the Indiana Political Risk Management Subdivision within 180 days of when the alleged injury occurred. Now that her claim has been denied, Magee can, if she chooses, proceed to file a lawsuit against the town.

Unable to obtain a phone number for Magee, The Banner could not contact her for comment on this story before this issue's news deadline.


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