Rexburg City Council debates legal authority of car booting

Photo Courtesy: Sydney Jensen | KID Newsradio

REXBURG, Idaho — Attorneys, council members and apartment representatives struggled to come to a resolution during a Rexburg City Council work session focused on car booting, Thursday, July 27.

The council convened the work session following an earlier city council meeting in which Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rob Wood argued Idaho state statute prevented the practice and Ordinance 911, which has been used to justify car booting in the City of Rexburg.

Rexburg City Attorney Steve Zollinger also contended during the work session the ordinance, originally written to permit towing, did not give the authority to boot nor did the City of Rexburg have the authority to authorize booting.

“While I wish we could get away at the local government level of writing reasonable and responsible laws, in the 27 years I’ve been a government attorney, the one thing I’ve learned is you cannot write the laws because they make sense.” Rexburg City Attorney Steve Zollinger said. “You have to write the laws the authorize you to write and I just don’t believe we have the authority yet to write this law.”

Major conflict between booting companies and those who have been booted are minimal. Zollinger said nine times out of 10, the issue is peacefully resolved.

But, those times the issue is not resolved peacefully, including a recent incident just a few weeks ago, continue to bring the subject back to the city council.

“Because of a recent incident with booting in here Rexburg, our attorneys have discovered the ordinance was actually written in a way or was actually being used in a way that it wasn’t intended for,” Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill told KID Newsradio.

Rachel Whoolery, a representative for the Off-Campus Housing Association (OCHA) in Rexburg told KID Newsradio booting seems to be the most peaceful and least intrusive way for private property owners to enforce parking.

“Private property needs the ability to enforce their parking, but to do it in the least intrusive way on the student and I feel like towing is very intrusive, very expensive and it removes your car and you have no way to get it,” Whoolery said.

Whoolery says she hopes all parties involved, including the city and law enforcement can find a way to create more peaceful interactions between booters and those who have been booted.

“Just to figure out a way so people understand the rules, it’s very clear and also the booting companies are very clear on what they can do to enforce the rules,” Whoolery said.

Those in attendance discussed several options, but no decisions will be made until the next city council meeting on August 16.

Councilman Chris Mann hopes the end result is simple and effective, saying “I just want a common sense solution to a problem.”