If you find yourself on the receiving end of a traffic ticket from one of Monona’s finest, you have three options:
You can accept responsibility for your actions, pay the fine and have points attached to your driving record. You can do that by mail or by visiting City Hall.
Or, you can go to Monona Municipal Court on the date given on your ticket. If you plead guilty in court, Municipal Judge Michael Finley has the authority to accept your plea while reducing either your fine or the number of points that go on your record.
But if I were you, I’d go to court and plead “not guilty.” Then you’ll have to have a pre-trial conference, probably with City Attorney William Cole.
That’s when you ask for the “Nancy Moore special.”
Moore is a Monona alderwoman. On March 26, at 7:43 a.m., Monona Officer Nathan Reynolds was conducting a radar speed patrol in the 6100 block of South Winnequah Road when he looked in his rearview mirror and saw Moore approaching at a high rate of speed.
In his report on the incident, Officer Reynolds estimated the lead-footed lawmaker was going about 45 miles an hour in a 25 mph zone. By the time he got his radar gun on her, she had slowed to 40 – still 15 miles an hour over the limit.
So he gave her a ticket that would cost $98.80 and stack four points on her driving record. He noted that Moore was “apologetic and cooperative” and told him she “did not know how fast she was driving.”
(Hmm. Given that South Winnequah residents have repeatedly told the City Council that the pedestrian and bicycle safety issues the alders pretend to care so much about are caused by speeding and inattentive drivers, you’d think a city official might be more aware of her surroundings.)
Moore appeared in court May 27, and pleaded “not guilty.”
I was tipped off to the case of “Pedal-to-the-metal Moore” by someone connected to the police department.
My source said that some officers were dismayed by her “not guilty” plea: They believe she disrespected the police department and the sometimes dangerous and unpleasant work that officers do on citizens’ behalf.
(I would add that while every offender has the right to plead “not guilty,” public officials should be held to a higher standard of accepting responsibility for their actions.)
Moore’s pre-trial conference was a telephone call with attorney John Gerlach of Sauk City. Cole had recused himself due to a conflict of interest.
And that’s when the “Nancy Moore special” deal was struck: All the points were dropped, and the charge reduced from speeding to not carrying her driver’s license. She agreed to pay the fine.
That’s a sweeter deal than she would have gotten had she pleaded guilty in the first place.
Furthermore, attorney Gerlach then billed the city $138.50 for filling in for Cole.
I contacted Moore about her case. She denies she received any special treatment, and she’s probably right. But all citizens should be made aware of the sweet deals available for those who plead not guilty.
In an e-mail, Moore said:
“I absolutely meant no disrespect to our Police Department. Indeed, if you spoke to the officer who made the stop, I believe he wouldn’t feel that way.
“When I was stopped and he was feeling a bit apologetic given the huge number of hours (council members) contribute, I immediately dismissed it, expressed my support and respect for the department and thanked him for doing his job — to quote ‘I don’t want any special treatment.’
“He then said ‘the points related to the stop are the harshest piece and if you want to negotiate … you should plead not guilty and expect to work with the City Attorney towards a resolution.’
“I appeared at Municipal Court. The judge reiterated this exact sentiment to everyone who was in Court, saying ‘I have very little leeway (or limited authority, again, I can’t remember his exact phrasing) to adjust charges or reduce points, if that’s what you’re hoping for, you should plead not guilty …
“John Gerlach did in fact call me. The first thing he said was ‘You have a perfect driving record, I’m not seeing a moving violation of any sort on your record for 30+ years.’
“I said that was correct, I take pride in that record, and I was stupidly destracted (sic) and stressed that morning … which also meant I was late for an appointment.
“He offered ‘I’ve spoken with the Police Department and we’ve agreed, given your perfect record, that identifying a lesser charge with zero points, that therefore won’t impact your insurance rates, makes sense. We just need to make sure the dollars add up to the same; the City gets its money regardless.’
(Actually, given Gerlach’s bill, the City ended up $40 in the hole.)
Moore claims, “I pushed back, questioning whether either the Department or he was giving me special treatment …
“He said ‘Absolutely not, this is exactly what I would offer anyone with a first offense. It’s standard procedure.’ I told him I’d think about it; feeling, as you said, that I was being offered a sweet deal.”
Moore also said “I was not aware at the time of my plea or after that the City pays extra for this other attorney’s services.”
“And frankly, if the Police Department or any individual within it feels disrespected, I feel horrible … Gerlach told me the Police Department was fine with it … I assume if they weren’t or felt disrespected they would have said so.
“Indeed, now that you’ve brought that potential to my attention (thank you), I may well seek out the chief to express what I have said here and ask what he recommends to ‘clean it up’.”
Well, if she wants to “clean it up” with her fellow citizens, she can start by not speeding and driving “destracted” on a road with a known speeding problem. Accept responsibility for her actions.
And stop mouthing empty pieties about traffic safety when she’s clearly part of the problem.
There’s a word for that: Hypocrisy.
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