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Published: Saturday, 6/25/2005

Official not cited for license violations

BY TOM TROY
AND CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

A Toledo councilman got a $25 parking ticket yesterday, but avoided citations for having an expired driver's license and license plates after she parked in a tow-away zone on Erie Street.

Councilman Karyn McConnell Hancock, a lawyer who is chairman of council's law and criminal justice committee and recently was elected president pro tem of council, also avoided a tow charge because police Chief Mike Navarre ordered officers not to tow her car.

Ms. McConnell Hancock, 33, said afterward that it was not the first time she had parked illegally on Erie. "I do it when I'm in a bind," she said.

An officer approached Ms. McConnell Hancock in the 500 block of Erie about 9:45 a.m. and told her she was parked illegally. She told the officer she would be in Toledo Municipal Court for a short time and left.

The officer eventually began to write a parking citation and order a tow for her car. Before her car was hooked up to the tow truck, Ms. McConnell Hancock approached the officer, identified herself as a city councilman, and requested her car not be towed, the chief said.

"She became upset with the fact her vehicle was going to be towed," the chief said.

Command officers at the scene notified Deputy Chief Derrick Diggs, who called Chief Navarre on his cell phone. Chief Navarre instructed them not to tow her car.

"The officer was doing nothing wrong," the chief said. "I overruled him [on the tow decision]."

Among the flurry of calls, Ms. McConnell Hancock telephoned Joe Walter, the city's safety director. Mr. Walter confirmed he took her call, but declined to discuss it further.

Mayor Jack Ford said he would talk to Mr. Walter. "In a case of a mayor or councilman, if their car should be towed for a legitimate reason, there should not be any intervention," the mayor said.

Ms. McConnell Hancock said she asked the officers not to tow her car, but didn't raise her voice or try to pull rank. Her predicament also drew the involvement of her father, Toledo Municipal Court Judge C. Allen McConnell, who was contacted by a sheriff's deputy while the judge was on the bench. When he went out to see if everything was OK, he found his daughter inside her car. "I asked if she was OK. She said she was fine, and I said OK and left," the judge said.

Ms. McConnell Hancock said she was handling a client matter "that took longer than I expected." She said she asked to be ticketed for the expired license and tags, but the officers declined. An officer drove her car to the nearby Government Center garage at Erie and Beech streets, where council members have reserved spots.

Ms. McConnell Hancock said she renewed her driver's license and license plates, both of which expired June 13, at a downtown office of the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles during her lunch hour. In a written statement, she said, "I apologize for taking up the valuable time of our public safety officers [when] I'm sure they had more important matters" to which to tend. Chief Navarre said towing her car "would have served no valid purpose."

"It's something that could be done for the average citizen and has been done," the chief said.

Ms. McConnell Hancock, a Democrat, was named to an at-large council vacancy in March, 2003, and was elected to fill the rest of the term that November. She is up for re-election this November.

Blade staff writer David Patch contributed to this report.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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