ABC 6 Reports — COLUMBUS — For the past two years, ABC 6 investigators have policed the Village of Brice’s controversial police department. Now, ABC 6 Investigator Tom Sussi has uncovered new startling information.
A few years ago, the village’s own legal counsel urged them to stop writing traffic tickets.
It’s all spelled out in a letter, given exclusively to Sussi. As usual, he went went straight to the source – Village of Brice Mayor Amy Evans.
“Why would the Village of Brice go against the advice of its lawyers,” he asked. “We chose to do it at that time,” said Mayor Evans.
“Why,” asked Sussi. “Is it the right thing to do?” Evans said, “I don’t know right or wrong.”
Village of Brice Mayor Amy Evans doesn’t know right or wrong?
The Village’s lawyers have an opinion, and it’s spelled out in a letter to Mayor Evans. They write, “The Village of Brice does not have the authority to create a system for enforcement of traffic or criminal laws and impose liability on violators.”
To better understand the significance of the letter, here’s what you need to know.
– March 2013: A state law goes into effect banning mayor’s court for towns with less than 201 residents.The Village of Brice is well below that mark.
– July 2013: The Village of Brice goes rogue. Cops there start writing traffic tickets as civil citations. Fines range from $75 to $750. In just six months, they write nearly 1,100 tickets, half of them for violating the Village’s 25 mile an hour speed limit. For its efforts, the Village collects $95,000 in fines.
– December 2013: The Village’s legal counsel writes a letter to Mayor Amy Evans. They say the court case the Village uses to justify writing traffic tickets are civil citations “does not apply.” Something else telling about this letter: “We understand the Village has stopped writing the civil violations, and it should continue to do so, to avoid any potential liability exposure or other legal implications.” The Village never stopped writing traffic tickets as civil citations.
Sussi asked Mayor Evans, “I just want to know what your legal precedence is for writing traffic tickets as civil citations.” Said Evans, “It’s what we decided to do at the time.”
Even though their own legal counsel advised them not to.
Sussi said, “For the life of me, I can’t understand why you would go against the advise of your attorney.” Said Evans, “Again, that’s between my attorney and myself.” Sussi asked, “Is the Village of Brice above the law? No, sir. Are you above the law? No, sir.”
The Village’s lawyers declined to talk with Sussi about the letter because it violates “attorney/client privilege.”
Last month, Sussi reported the Village of Brice passed an ordinance to install speed cameras. Mayor Evans said that’s still the plan. The Village recently laid off most of its tiny police department because “a deficiency of funding.” All who remains is Chief Chris Iacone.