Letter to the Editor: The Face of the City

It happens—my daughter got a speeding ticket during her spring break from college while driving on the interstate through the city of Italy. So that’s on her. But what happened next is on the city of Italy.

I chose to contact the city myself to get the necessary details, including the possible option of a Defensive Driving Course. Expecting a routine exchange with the female Municipal Court staff member who answered the phone, I was completely shocked by the unprofessional manner in which she handled the call. Her first response was, “is this your ticket?” to which I explained it was not. She continued, demanding to know why my daughter was not making the call herself and stated that my daughter should be handling it. I was also treated to a diatribe on how often she receives calls from parents who yell at her. In truth, the only irrational person in that exchange was the public servant, who clearly has issues with… probably a lot of things.

Being caught so off guard, it was in retrospect that I questioned the issue of whether or not I could legally make an inquiry about how to resolve the issue of the traffic citation. I’ve certainly never heard of such a thing, and the city employee didn’t state that to be the case. The only issue seemed to be that she didn’t like it. There’s more—

The next day my daughter called to tell me that she contacted the City of Italy’s Municipal Court, and apparently spoke to the same person. The immediate accusatory question posed to her was, “is this your ticket?” Like an unwelcome repeat of my call a day earlier, it was same overall disgruntled and disrespectful handling of a phone call placed to the city.

Interestingly, when my daughter mailed her payment from a post office in Austin, the postal clerk commented that it had been a slow day and she noticed that one of the few customers coming in was also mailing payment for a traffic ticket to the City of Italy. This, coupled with now two very unpleasant encounters with one of your city employees, I decided to do a little checking. Apparently, there are more than just a few people who have felt strongly enough about a traffic stop along the interstate through Italy, that they’ve taken the time to write about it. Additionally, there have been similar experiences with a certain civil servant at the Municipal Court. Sounds like a pattern.

Given what I read within area news publications and other cites, I have doubts that a letter to the city would result in any real self-examination of policies or actions that may be questionable. If there is no validity in claims of a speed trap to raise city revenue, then at the very least there is an issue with a city employee who is, as an apparent matter of routine, undeniably and indefensibly rude, passing off personal judgments as if they were city or state policy.

For the citizens of Italy there’s a lot at stake. It would be an oversight not to recognize how easily this kind of reputation can impact small businesses in a community. From what I’ve seen it’s time to ask questions and demand appropriate standards.

Sandy Dyer

Comment received from Chief Diron Hill, 3:14pm – 4/4/13

As with most negative comments…there is always another untold side of the story. I was present the day Mrs. Dyer contacted the court clerk and overheard the conversation. The court clerk was professional and maintained a civil but “matter of fact” tone the entire conversation. I believe that Mrs. Dyer was also civil. As a matter of fact, the court clerk extended Mrs. Dyer extra courtesy by even discussing her ADULT daughter’s citation. The daughter, who goes to college, should be responsible enough to take care of her own citations. I believe that I overheard the court clerk explaining to Mrs. Dyer that many sons and daughters will tell the parents one story (which is many times far from the truth) and the parents will call up complaining without trying to get the full or correct story first.

Many people also continually make unreasonable requests of the court clerk. Sometimes they call and when she advises them that she CAN NOT advise them how to take care of the paperwork or any procedures, they often become angry and sometimes yell and cuss at her. No one should have to take that abuse. Most of the time, they have passed their court dates (sometimes by months or years) and they want something right then. I challenge anyone to sit in municipal courts 1 day and you would understand. When a person continually makes an unreasonable request and then starts yelling and cussing you, you have to be blunt and to the point. The clerk gives factual and truthful information but sometimes people don’t want to hear it and continue to berate the clerk.

I’m not saying that is what Mrs. Dyer did, but she was making a request that the clerk could not fulfill legally so when Mrs. Dyer did not get what she wanted, she automatically labeled her as rude. Don’t confuse rudeness with telling a person “I can’t give you that information” or “I can’t advise you on that” or that she is doing her job exactly how she is supposed to do it.

My question is why did Mrs. Dyer choose to only write her concerns to the Neotribune and not contact her supervisor to look into her complaint? Was there any alternate motive? As I said at the beginning, there is always another side of the story and I just wanted to give that “other side”.

Chief Diron Hill

Comment received from John R. Droll, 1:43pm – 4/4/13

As someone who is on I-35E every day and on March 13th was rear-ended by a semi, who was cited for “failure to maintain speed”, there are 2 points I’d like to make. Unless things have changed our police officers haven’t been stopping cars until they are at or close to 80 mph. If they stopped everyone going 70 an officer would never get off the interstate. I used to attend the municipal court regularly when I was on the council and many, many motorists were unaware of the 65 mph speed limit, EVEN THE SOUTHBOUNDERS! Coming north you can kind of see where they might not notice the 3 or 4 signs before getting to Italy. But coming from Dallas and northern Ellis County? I’d also like to point out that if you would attend court you would find that Judge Miller is involved with handing out justice, not collecting fines. While this is not the main point of your letter, you mentioned “speed traps” first. I’d be interested to know the “area news publications and other cites” you mention.

2 things I note from the original letter. You chose not to call and talk to the Court Clerk’s supervisor. Doesn’t mean you can’t still write a letter, but you do everyone an injustice by not allowing their supervisor to look into it. If we have a problem with any employee we need to fix the problem.

The last thing is how you ended your letter. It leads me to believe that other things are at play here as it matches up with many untruths that are currently being spread and the many promises that are being made around town.

Just saying…..
John R. Droll

Comment received from Sally Arthur, 9:52am – 4/4/13

In response to “The Face of the City”….I can not speak about the city employee referred to in this letter. I can, however, speak about the traffic tickets on the highway.

I have lived in Italy for 4 years and drive to and from Waxahachie to work every day. I do not speed for several reasons, which are my own. However, most people driving on I-35 fly past me like I am standing still. The speed limit is not raised to 75 until you get to Milford. I would almost bet that most people driving through the city limits of Italy are hitting at least 75 if not more.

I don’t feel that the Italy Police Department has set up a speed trap. Most people on the highway ARE speeding. You know what the consequences are if you break the law. I actually feel that Italy could make a lot more money if they spent even more time on the highway. But they don’t. They are in town, serving the people who live in Italy, not picking on drivers going up and down I-35.

Bottom line…slow down. Drive the speed limit. It’s the law.
Sally Arthur