McDonough orders stop to vehicle 'booting'

The City of McDonough has issued an order to Georgia Parking Enforcement, Inc., to prevent cars parked in private lots without permission from being booted, but the company's owner, Steven Harper, is not taking the order without a fight.

According to a statement the city released on Tuesday, McDonough has issued a cease and desist order prohibiting any further booting of vehicles parked within the city. The order was based on an early May ruling by Henry County Magistrate Court Judge Martin C. Jones in the case of Thomas Wickes and Taprine Powell vs. Georgia Parking Enforcement, Inc.

In January, Wickes and Powell parked their vehicle in the lot of Moye's Pharmacy to buy medicine for their child. Powell then went to the Henry County Judicial Center, while Wickes remained in the vehicle.

An employee of Georgia Parking Enforcement approached and booted the car, demanding Wickes pay $100 to have the boot removed.

Wickes and Powell sued the company, and won.

Jones ruled Georgia Parking Enforcement failed to present any statutory authority allowing Moye's Pharmacy, or Georgia Parking Enforcement, to "boot" or immobilize unauthorized vehicles parked in the parking lot.

The statement released by the city said its cease and desist order is based on Jones' ruling.

"As a result, it is illegal for any company to boot vehicles within the City of McDonough," the statement declares. "The police department will initiate appropriate enforcement action against any firm or individual who engages in this practice."

In its statement, the city acknowledged that Harper may appeal its order.

"There's no law against booting in Georgia," Harper said. "They have no right to do that."

Jones, continued Harper, based the ruling entirely on his own opinion.

Harper said as of Monday, his employees will begin towing illegally parked vehicles. Towing vehicles, he explained, will be more expensive for motorists than booting.

According to a civil action document filed in Henry County Magistrate Court, Georgia Parking Enforcement and attorney James Watkins are appealing Jones' decision.

The document was dated May 6.

On May 19, Harper also filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, and a motion for injunction and temporary restraining order, against the City of McDonough, the McDonough Police Department, and McDonough Police Chief Preston Dorsey.

Harper said he is suing the city for his lost wages, and he maintained he is merely doing his job.

Harper vowed not to let the issue drop, and complained about the way the city is handling the situation.

"It looks like I'm going to have to take this all the way to federal court," he continued. "It's the 'Good Ole Boy' mentality [but] I'm not going to tolerate this."

City officials anticipate the ruling against booting to stand.

"In the unlikely event the ruling of the Magistrate Court is overturned, and the court determines that the city must regulate the activity to reasonably restrict such operations, then the mayor [Billy Copeland] and city council will be presented with a city ordinance to provide reasonable restrictions on any booting company that chooses to operate here," the city's statement said.

City Administrator Billy Beckett declined to speculate on Harper's next move, or if any more booting problems are anticipated. "I can't predict what he may do," Beckett said. "We're prepared to move forward if the court overturns the ruling."