July 19, 2012 | Volume 42, No. 29

Mayor: Tow complaint a civil matter

Mayor Stephanie Scott said there doesn’t appear to be a remedy in Haines Borough code for addressing complaints of two visitors who said they were ripped off by a local tow company.

Whitehorse resident Alexander Gubergrits and wife Galina Belokopitou, whose trailer became stuck in a Chilkoot Lake campsite, paid $780 for a pull out of the spot. Tow truck operator Paul Nelson impounded their vehicle when the couple balked at a $450 bill presented to them after the trailer was pulled out of the site.

They filed a small claims suit against Nelson on July 7, seeking $4,616 including for a towing overcharge, loss of holidays, gasoline expenses, a ferry ride and lodging in Juneau. Gubergrits said they were so upset by the experience, they felt they had to leave town. Nelson has 20 days to respond to the suit.

In an interview, Mayor Scott said Gubergrits’ claim was a civil matter and not a criminal one.

Nelson holds a borough business license, but unlike a borough tour permit, there are no provisions in code for repeal of the license, based on complaints, she said.

“The only part of (code) that allows (the borough) to pull a business license is if a person is delinquent with sales tax. (Code) doesn’t have any behavioral restrictions” for business licenses, Scott said. “I don’t think the borough has authority to pull a business license unless a business is in violation of its sales tax.”

Annual business licenses aren’t issued to businesses that are tax delinquent or don’t have a state business license, she said.