Student sues West Bank parking lot management

Brad Ellingson

Dana Svoboda, a senior in human resource development and a Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs employee, had parked in the lot behind Bob’s Pizza on the West Bank since July.

But she doesn’t anymore.

Last Friday, Svoboda was towed after she paid $6 for two days of parking in the lot, and now she’s seeking legal action against TotalPark, the lot’s manager.

She said she and her co-workers have always parked there under the assumption that patrons could pre-pay for the week.

“Nothing had been a problem since then,” Svoboda said. “All of a sudden I come and my car had been towed, and I paid.”

Parking patrons are required to write their license plate numbers and date on a small envelope, enclosing $3 for the day or $2.50 after 6 p.m.

With no parking lot attendants and more than 60 spaces, the lot operates on an honor system.

But Bob Faegre, the owner of the lot and Bob’s Pizza, said some people have not been paying and paying days in advance has never been allowed.

“We found 11 people who had not paid, and they were just parking there for free,” Faegre said.

Faegre owns the lot but pays TotalPark to manage it. He said after many months of not towing, patrons were shocked last Friday when their cars had been towed.

“It pissed a bunch of people off,” Faegre said.

Kaylee Hansen, program coordinator for the Humphrey Institute Museum, said she frequently pays ahead for a space in the lot.

“I’ve never had a problem with it,” Hansen said. “I typically park from 9 to 5, and I come and go frequently throughout the day.”

Hansen said she still parks there, but she has called TotalPark in the past when the box for envelopes was filled to capacity.

“I’m fairly concerned that they don’t have accurate daily records,” Hansen said.

Jim Bartlett, president of TotalPark, said the company tries to give customers the benefit of the doubt.

“I’ve been towed, so I know what it’s like,” Bartlett said. “It’s a very bad experience, and we go out of our way not to tow people. But when someone doesn’t pay, we tow them.”

Still, Svoboda wants to be reimbursed for the $185 towing fee and is currently working with a Student Legal Services lawyer.

“It’s kind of my word against (Bartlett’s) because there’s no way for me to prove that I paid if I don’t have any sort of documentation,” Svoboda said. “But at the same time, he doesn’t have any way to prove that I didn’t pay because he doesn’t keep any records.”

This would not be the first time Bartlett has been taken to court over towing-related issues.

“It’s amazing. Absolutely everyone that gets towed swears on a Bible that they paid,” Bartlett said. “My experience in seven years of doing this is that 99.9 (percent) of them are not telling the truth.”