Originally created 02/13/98

Tickets get refunded, dismissed



GROVETOWN -- Ken Mustin knew he was caught speeding.

Hurrying to work one Tuesday morning last month in Grovetown, his foot got a little too heavy on Newmantown Road.

"The lady officer clocked me doing 52 in a 35 zone," he said.

There was nothing to dispute. He was caught, so he paid his fine -- $108.20 -- never expecting to hear about it again.

But luckily for him, he did.

Mr. Mustin is one of 17 people caught speeding by Grovetown police whose fines are being refunded and tickets dismissed because the city isn't authorized to use radar on Newmantown Road, Public Safety Chief John Tomberlin said Wednesday.

City officials mailed out letters of explanation accompanied by refund checks totaling a little more than $1,500 this week, he said.

The action was prompted by a another man also charged with speeding who questioned the city's authority to operate radar on Newmantown Road. When Chief Tomberlin took a closer look at the permit -- from the State Department of Public Safety -- he found it lacking.

"We started looking at our current authorization," Chief Tomberlin said. "That's when we recognized there was a problem."

Law enforcement agencies must have a permit from state authorities before using radar to catch speeders on any specific road, said Gordy Wright, spokesman for the State Department of Public Safety.

Each road must meet standards for radar use set forth by the State Department of Transportation before the permit is approved, Mr. Wright said.

Although other city streets have been approved for Grovetown's radar permit, Newmantown Road isn't on the list.

"We thought on a city street that (regulation) didn't apply, but now we know it does," Chief Tomberlin said.

When the error was discovered Chief Tomberlin said he immediately took steps to find any others tickets issued on Newmantown Road since last February, when the new 35 mph speed limit signs went up and radar was first used.

"It was a situation we felt in all fairness we should straighten out," he said. "We made a mistake, and now we're correcting it."

Grovetown's error is of the kind that state officials take seriously, Mr. Wright said.

Repeated use of radar on roads that aren't approved can put a law enforcement agency's entire permit in jeopardy, he said. But, state officials usually reserve punitive action for agencies which knowingly abuse radar regulations.

"When a city goes to this much effort to right a wrong, they should be commended," Mr. Wright said.

Mr. Mustin -- who first learned of the refund Monday from Grovetown Clerk of Court Jodi Thigpen -- is just happy to get his money back.

"I told the young lady who called me it was the best news I had heard in a long time," Mr. Mustin said. "I was just ecstatic about it."