Piece Of Junk Mail Creates Fine, Hassles For Wendell Woman
Posted October 14, 2005 7:13 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — Think of all the trash you see along the side of the road. What if a piece of it somehow has your name on it, even though you live more than 100 miles away? It happened to a Wake County woman, and one piece of junk mail cost her plenty, so she called Five On Your Side for help.
If it has her name on it, it now goes through the shredder. That is Carla Pearce's rule after a piece of junk mail cost her $100. It started with a notice from Robeson County.
"I open it and next thing I know, I see I'm getting fined for trash in a county where I've never been before," Pearce said.
The letter includes a picture of a bag of trash Pearce does not recognize, supposedly found outside a Robeson County dumpsite. On top of the bag was a piece of junk mail dated 2003 with Pearce's name and Wendell address.
"I'm thinking where is Robeson County. That's almost to South Carolina," he said. "I can't understand how they figure I would go so far away from home just to leave one piece of trash."
Pearce called officials in Robeson County.
"The only thing he kept like really repeating to me is 'You're responsible for your trash. You're responsible for your trash,' I was like, 'Well, it's not my trash.' 'Well, that's your letter, so it must be your trash.'"
The supervisor then told Pearce he'd reduce the $200 littering ordinance fine to $100 or she could fight it in court, but warned if she lost, she would have to pay $600. Pearce reluctantly paid the $100, then called Five On Your Side.
"Something's just not right about this situation," Pearce said.
Right or not, it appears the littering ordinance is a money maker. Robeson County Solid Waste Supervisor Landace Cannady told Five On Your Side based on a report he had right in front of him, in August alone, the county collected almost $20,000 in fines.
"We don't look at this as a revenue stream," said Solid Waste Director Steve Edge.
Edge said the ordinance keeps Robeson County from becoming a trash dump. But in Pearce's case, even though the officer followed the letter of the law, Edge said he should have considered it was one piece of mail, and that Pearce lives nowhere near Robeson County.
"Nothing's written in stone, and when you're using judgement, you should use good judgement," Edge said. "We'll definitely have a conversation pertaining to this case. I'll make it right."
Edge told Pearce that to get a refund, she needed to write a letter to the Public Works Committee explaining what happened. After Five On Your Side questioned that, Edge wrote a memo instead, but the committee denied the refund. Commissioner Bill Herndon told Five On Your Side, "We don't do anything but follow policies."
As for the $20,000 in fines collected in August, Edge disputes that amount but would not show Five On Your Side the records. We are formally requesting those documents.