Posted: Sep 26, 2011 6:06 PM by Andy Koen
Updated: Sep 26, 2011 6:07 PM
Surveillance video from the Ace Loan and Pawn on South Academy Boulevard shows uniformed sheriff's deputies, under court order, removing cash from the registers. It's the second time the this month that the sheriff's office has conducted the till taps at three of company's four Colorado Springs stores.
"They came in told us to shut the doors, locked it, shut down business," recalled store employee Dan Baker. "They went into the cash register, took all of the money in the register and the coins, went into the safe, took the coins out of the safe."
The pawn shop owes unpaid Stormwater Enterprise fees that owner Steve Willcox refused to pay. Co-owner Penny Wilcox, Steve's wife, says it feels like government intrusion.
"He refused to pay it, then all of a sudden one day, they come into my business and they have a piece of paper saying they're taking all of my money out of my business."
The city's collections agency, A-1 Collections, took Willcox to court to collect on the fees. They won a writ of execution after Willcox failed to show up.
Penny contests the judgment because she says Steve was never directly served by A-1.
"The subpoena was never given to him to show up in court, so we never had our day in court to justify why we feel we don't owe them," she said.
However, the image of government officers taking cash from business owners has created a political fire storm, particularly because the debt is for the controversial Stormwater Enterprise fees.
On Monday, Sheriff Terry Maketa told News 5 he has temporarily halted his deputies from performing till tap collections for writs issued on behalf of A-1.
"I did commit to Mayor Bach's office that I would hold off, I needed to check the statutory requirements as I don't want to be held in contempt and it does give time to hold off the service of further till taps."
The sheriff's office has conducted 13 till taps this year, 9 of those were issued in judgment awarded to A-1.
A-1 Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Ric Mills did not comment directly to the sheriff's action. However, he emailed News 5 and other local media outlets a letter which he says, "rebuts the misconceptions, fallacies, lies, uninformed, uneducated, ignorant and outright idiotic statements I have seen and heard about my agency, the judges, the sheriff and the city government."
City Council President Scott Hente said that a closed door meeting between council and the city attorney is planned for Tuesday to review all Stormwater Enterprise related issues.