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West Knox woman cries ‘foul’

A local woman said she feels Knox County government is treating her unfairly.

Lisa McMahan, a resident off Alan Ridge Lane, said Knox County towed two pop-up campers and her car Monday, Feb. 4. The vehicles were parked on the street in her neighborhood’s cul-de-sac.

“They were parked on the street at the curb in front of my house. I didn’t know I was in any violation,” McMahan said.

“County Code is clear: you’re not allowed to park a recreational vehicle or a camper, trailer, what have you, on the street. It’s got to be parked on your own property,” said Bruce Wuetrich, head of Knox County Engineering and Public Works. He added that the car was towed because it was inoperable.

McMahan said that a neighbor, who drives a police cruiser, also parked a camper on the street.

“I thought if he can do it, apparently there’s no problem. We’re not in violation,” she said.

Once she found out she was in violation of a Knox County code, McMahan asked that this other camper be ticketed as well. The other camper was not ticketed until a representative of NAACP called Wuetrich.

McMahan is a black female; the other citizens in the neighborhood with various violations are white.

“You tell me they’re not making a difference? Wake up and smell the coffee,” she said.

“Color was a big ol’ factor here,” she added.

“Of course, this has nothing to do with race. It was just a clear code violation,” Wuetrich said.

According to McMahan, she was ticketed after a male neighbor called about another neighor, who had an RV in his driveway. People were living in the RV, a codes violation.

According to Wuetrich, the original call was from a female neighbor who called about McMahan’s campers. The RV was ticketed later, from another complaint.

“Everything we work, we work on a complaint basis. That doesn’t mean you’re legal unless someone complains on you. But my inspectors, just by the sheer amount of calls we get, don’t go out looking for violators,” Wuetrich said.

He said the campers were ticketed on Jan. 30 and had to be moved in 48 hours. McMahan asked to have an extension through the weekend, which Wuetrich granted.

McMahan scheduled a meeting Monday, Feb. 4, with codes inspector Tammy Harvey, who tagged her vehicles, and Wuetrich. Wuetrich claimed that he warned McMahan that the vehicles would be towed Monday, regardless of any meeting.

The Monday meeting was cancelled and rescheduled for Tuesday. Her campers and car were towed on Monday.

“Why was mine so urgent that they couldn’t wait until the 1 p.m. meeting, whichever day [Harvey] had time to see me? Because the hitches were in mine; I just wanted to see what was this ordinance. How come one could do it and I can’t? That’s all I was asking,” McMahan said.

Wuetrich said that, regardless of a meeting, the vehicles remained in violation of codes. “There’s nothing you can tell me that is going to make those campers legal,” Wuetrich said.

“If you’re coming at this from the angle that other people were breaking the law, so she should be able to too, that’s just not going to fly,” he added.

“The funny thing is, [McMann] never gave me a reason why she couldn’t tow them: no ‘I don’t have a truck, I was in the hospital … nothing,” Wuetrich said.

“It’s really a cut-and-dry case,” he added. “We just did what we were supposed to do. We didn’t do anything different with her that we wouldn’t have done with anyone else.”

Wuetrich added that Harvey tagged the other neighborhood violations after they were brought to her attention.

“And as far as I know … all of the violations brought to our attention have been taken care of,” he said. “They packed up and moved, which is what they were supposed to do.”

However, McMahan does not feel the same way. Her vehicles remain impounded; she feels that the County should return her cars and waive the towing and impounding fees, which total more than $1,500.

The vehicles contained products McMahan travels and sells: “jewelry and puppy dog stuff,” she said.

According to Knox County Commissioner Richard Briggs, if the cars are not picked up from impound after 10 days, the County has the right to auction them off. In mid-February, Knox County volunteered to pay half of McMahan’s impounding and storage fees to end the situation. She refused.

“I’m the only one that’s being punished here,” she said.

“I feel like a difference has been made, no ifs, ands or buts about it,” she said.

McMahan has been in contact with commissioners Craig Leuthold, Mike Hammond and Briggs. Briggs came out to her home Saturday, April 5.

“Trying to be objective and really wanting to help my constituents as much as I can, this is a tough case to argue,” Briggs said.

“From my opinion, she’s in the wrong,” he added. Briggs also said he believes the County wants to resolve the situation, but will not pay to haul her vehicles back to her.

According to McMahan, Hammond and Leuthold have not returned her calls promptly. She also contacted Town employees, but her residence is not within Farragut town limits.

McMahan also said that she spoke at a County Commission meeting Jan. 28 about a dog bite in June 2006. She does not find it coincidental that two days later she was ticketed for having an illegal cover on her license plate.

“This is a tee-total disgrace, that’s all I’ve got to say,” McMahan said.


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