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 Carthage Marshal Criticized Over Towing Incident

August 13, 2008 - Ripley Township resident Scott McFerran finished a relaxing canoe trip with his girlfriend on the Big Blue River at about 5 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 4, only to find that his pickup truck, which he'd left parked near the new Carthage water tower, had been towed.

At first, McFerran was upset with himself for not seeing a no trespassing sign posted near where he had left his truck. However, after traveling to Rushville and paying $80 to get his truck out of impound, McFerran's anger over the situation found a new target: Carthage Town Marshal Dan Murphy.

When McFerran went to pick up his truck in Rushville, he found that it had two stickers on the windows that said, "WARNING - THIS VEHICLE IS CONSIDERED ABANDONED AND MAY BE IMPOUNDED IF IT IS NOT REMOVED WITHIN 6 HOURS." The time on both stickers indicated that they had been filled out by Murphy at 4 p.m. … on Aug. 2 and Aug. 3.

"When I got to the impound yard and I found these stickers on it, then I had an issue," McFerran told members of the Carthage Town Council during last Wednesday's regular monthly meeting. He said thought the stickers had been backdated to make it appear his truck had been parked there since Saturday, Aug. 2, when, in fact, it had only been parked there for a few hours on the afternoon of Aug. 4.

Council President Rick Bush, who used to be a deputy with the Carthage Police Department and now serves as a reserve officer, told McFerran the stickers should not have been placed on his truck. "Your vehicle was not abandoned," he said. "Your vehicle was on private property. There shouldn't have been any notice anyway. (Murphy) should have just towed it to begin with."

McFerran said he agreed that he should not have parked his truck there and that he would have had no problem if his truck had been towed simply because it was parked where it should not have been. However, he said Murphy had backdated the stickers to make it look like his truck had been there since Saturday, and even told the tow truck driver it had been there for a couple of days.

Asked by Bush if he had told anyone that McFerran's truck had been there longer than just a few hours on Monday, Murphy said he had not. He said he had just made a mistake while filling in the dates on the stickers.

On Tuesday, The Banner spoke to the tow truck driver, who the newspaper has chosen not to identify, about this incident. He confirmed that Murphy had told him the truck had been parked there by the water tower for a couple of days.

McFerran received little sympathy from council members, especially from Bush, who held steadfast in his view that the incorrect dates on the stickers were simple mistakes. McFerran continued to press his case, however.

"If he's going to put a tag on it, that day was the fourth," McFerran said. "He should have put one of these tags on there that said he was there at ... 4 p.m. on 8-04-08. Instead, this ticket says 8-02-08. That's one mistake. And here's another mistake: This one says 8-03-08. ... Neither one of these is right."

"Do you think he made that mistake?" McFerran asked the council. "The second? The third? He didn't even write these on the second or the third - it was the fourth."

"You know what the lesson learned is?" Bush asked McFerran. "Don't park right in front of a sign that says no trespassing. That's the moral of the story. That's the bottom line."

"If that's how he's doing things in town, at least you guys know it," McFerran said. "We'll see what happens here in the future."

"I wasn't being deceptive when I wrote those," Murphy told the council. "That's not how I carry myself. That's not how I do business."

"That's why I'm here," McFerran said, "to make sure you don't. … Two wrong dates on two tickets the same day you slapped (them) on my vehicle and it wasn't even that date. I don't see how a man in your position can make a mistake like that."

During the discussion of this issue, Murphy told council members that McFerran had the wrong license plate on his truck, but said he didn't issue a ticket for that. Murphy explained that the plates for his two vehicles were just one number off from each other and said he had put the wrong plate on his truck. "So, it is possible to have a mistake with numbers," council member Jack Taylor said to McFerran.

Before McFerran left, council member Doris Wyatt did tell him she understood the point he was trying to make.


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