Salted with Sharks

County Recycling Coordinator Caught Up in Driver Responsibility Act Mess

In Breaking, Community Alert, Elsewhere in BenCo..., Gov't Watch, Green Elbertians, Law & Order, Public Safety, Transportation, Uncategorized on June 17, 2013 at 4:50 pm

By Emily Votruba

County Recycling Coordinator Mike Fiebing was pulled over in his personal vehicle on Wednesday June 5 for having a cracked windshield—a routine traffic stop, according to Sheriff Ted Schendel. Schendel told the Alert that when the officer ran Fiebing’s license record the license was found to have been suspended, and the record showed that it had been suspended more than once. Fiebing was arrested and taken to jail; he posted bond, and the case was referred to the prosecutor.

The arraignment was Thursday June 13 at 9 am. “Having an employee driving a county vehicle without a valid license places a huge liability on the county,” the Sheriff told the Alert that morning. The question is whether Fiebing had been knowingly operating the county vehicle with a suspended license.

According to county prosecutor Sara Mason, Fiebing was charged with operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license. “There was a Second or Subsequent Offense notice, meaning he has been previously convicted of this. His prior conviction was on or about 10/04/2010 in Grand Traverse County. The prior offense makes the possible penalty 1 year in jail or $1,000, as opposed to a maximum 93 days in jail or a $500 fine for a first offense.” According to Mason, the Secretary of State indicates his license was most recently suspended on November 14, 2012. Mason said Fiebing stood mute at the arraignment and the judge entered a not guilty plea for him.

The Alert reached county administrator Chris Olson on June 14. According to Olson, Fiebing accepted his position on September 22 and started work as the county recycling  and solid waste coordinator on October 22. Olson didn’t have the total number of applicants for that job handy, but remembered there being 6. He said a commissioners’ subcommittee consisting of chair Mark Roper, Marcia Stobie, Roland Halliday, Olson, and chair of the recycling advisory board Dale Flaherty conducted the interviews.

Olson said he did reference checks on Fiebing in September, making contact with two of Fiebing’s prior employers. “Nothing indicated a problem. When he came to work for the county he presented a valid driver’s license. We were not aware that there had been a suspension until recently. My understanding is that the suspension occurred in November. Fiebing pleaded not guilty and is still in the [recycling coordinator] position. He took care of his outstanding issues with the state and is driving with a valid license now. He stated that he was not aware of the suspension, which occurred after he was already on the job. We are going through a process. We’ve met with Michael and I imagine there will be some discussion of this matter at the June 18 county commissioners’ meeting.”

Fiebing returned the Alert‘s call on Sunday, June 6, while he was out emptying recycling bins. He said his license was suspended after he was hired.

After he was arrested on the 5th, Fiebing said he notified Chris Olson that he would be taking a personal day and he went to the secretary of state’s office in Traverse and cleared up the suspension the next morning. He said he’d had no reason to believe his license was suspended.

The suspension was due to a missed Driver’s Responsibility Act fee payment. He had missed one payment, which he was notified of by letter on October 15. Fiebing said when he received that notice, he immediately made the missing payment, the current payment, and the next payment. He said when he made the payments the state should have rescinded the suspension, but apparently they didn’t.

“I’m waiting for more paperwork verifying that the state did receive those [October] payments,” Fiebing said.

Fiebing said he had heard District 7 commissioner and commission chair Don Tanner wanted to call a special meeting to discuss the issue with key players, including the county attorney.

“I think some commissioners may think I should have been fired right away,” Fiebing said. “There’s a question of whether I violated the Employee Handbook rules by not informing the county of the suspension.” Fiebing maintains he did not know his license was suspended, and that he had no reason to believe the payments he made in October had not cleared up the issue. “There’s a wide range of disciplinary actions the county can take, from suspension of employment, to reprimand, to termination,” Fiebing said. “And I’m waiting to hear about the trial dates.”

The Driver Responsibility Act went into effect in October 2003 and has been amended several times since then. The current enforcement procedure can be viewed here.

Violations that qualify for fee penalties fall into two categories. Category 1, less serious offenses, include

  • careless driving, drag racing, speeding, improper turn, tailgating, disobeying a traffic control device, failure to yield, failure to signal or observe, unauthorized or improper use of lights, prohibited turn, driving wrong way on one-way street, driving left of center (etc.)

Points are assessed for each of these, and once a driver has accumulated 7 points for any offense or combination of offenses, the fees begin at $100 and increase by $50 for each additional point above seven points.

For the more serious Category 2 offenses, fees may be assessed after a single instance, and those fees are assessed for two consecutive years. The offenses include:

  • Drunk Driving (Operating While Intoxicated) = $1,000
  • Reckless Driving = $500
  • No Proof of Insurance = $200*
  • Drove While License Expired = $150*

Find a full list of Category 2 offenses here.

Fees collected from Driver Responsibility Act offenses go primarily into the state’s general fund, with a small percentage going to the fire safety fund, according to the state Treasury Department’s media representative Terry Stanton. Stanton said that between 2009 and 2012, the state collected over $450 million* in revenue from these fees.

Fiebing did not elaborate on the nature of the initial offense or offenses that set these fees in motion, but did say, “I’d like to mention that my suspension was not the result of  drunk driving or moving violation offenses of any kind, but rather to administrative complications associated with the Driver’s Responsibility Act,” Fiebing said.

A word of advice from the Alert: Remember to bring your unexpired driver’s license with you whenever you drive, and make sure you have your up-to-date proof of insurance at all times, because lacking either of those is a Category 2 offense for which the State of Michigan will make sure you pay, and which can get you into a lot of other trouble as well. Ψ

*FY 2009 $111,275,000; FY 2010 $114,805,000; FY 2011 $111,051,000; FY 2012 $108,006,000

  1. When they came for the tailgaters, I didn’t speak up, because tailgaters always annoyed me.

  2. I’ve been a victim of that act as well. Was gone overseas for two months when they sent the letter so didn’t even find out until I’d gotten back. I had previously gotten a ticket for no insurance but the officer who gave it to me never mentioned anything about the driver responsibility act. Because I didn’t pay the fee in time they were going to charge me an extra $125 for license reinstatement. Called up Treasury and explained the situation. The person said, no problem. It was only a few days late and I had been overseas. This was several months ago. Today when I went to renew my license, I was told that I owed the $125 and there was no record of Treasury waiving the fee. 😦

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