How the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority Endeavored to Screw Me
Posted on February 13, 2017
How the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority Endeavored to Screw Me
Brought to you by Cous’n Hemp’n Entertainment!
Written by Michael A. Hempen
“Few things in life can be as disheartening as stupidity; frustration abounds when that stupidity is coupled with perceived authority.” – Me
This is Just Me, Deal with It.
When I was 12 years old, my mother sent me off to military school. The very first night I spent there, I was accused of doing something that I didn’t do.
My mother dropped me off on the campus of the military school, early in the day. I was sent to the ‘cottage’ I was to live in and two boys were assigned to show me around the campus. It was dead of winter and I can remember a deep chill that gripped me down to the bone as we walked around in the snow looking at buildings older than religion. Later in the evening, after showing me the gym, where we watched the high schoolers play basketball for a bit, the two boys and I headed back to the cottage. It was around eight o’clock and the campus had a silvery glow about it from a full moon reflecting off the snow. The fear I felt earlier in the day had dissipated and I now found myself full of hope for what was to come.I’d just made new friends in the way that only kids can be friends. Innocence, light-hearted joking, and a feeling of utter invincibility. Those romantic fantasies of childhood wonder died for me on that night.
We had gotten a few yards away from the gym on our way to the cottage, when seemingly from out of nowhere, a frantic man ran up to us and started accusing us of throwing snow balls at his car. He was waving his arms around, stomping, and spitting as he yelled. I was frightened because I had never been spoken to in this manner by an adult in my life. As his line of questioning degraded into cursing and name-calling, we began throwing snowballs just to keep the man at bay. After 5 minutes of enduring this stupidity, the man stomped off and left us to walk home. Our innocence afforded us the luxury of laughing off our crazy accuser.
When we got back to the cottage at around nine PM, our supervisor – or ‘house parent’ – was waiting for us. She told us that we were wanted at the dean’s office right away.
The dean’s office was a bear cave dug into the side of this enormous brick building that sat at the front of the school’s campus, called ‘The Administration Building’. A dean was stationed in this den 24/7 to deal with just the type of situation I was about to find myself in.
As so ordered, so did we do. We walked to the dean’s office without a care in the world; we would tell him “we didn’t do it” and be on with our night—the naiveté of youth.
When we arrived at the dean’s office, we were greeted by a short thin man named Mr. Tucker. Mr. Tucker immediately began yelling and accusing without asking any questions. In this fashion, he was much like our original accuser. Mr. Tucker kept screaming for us to admit what we had done. I’m sure we cried. We were scared shitless, it didn’t seem to matter WHAT we told him, he simply would not listen to the reasoning of twelve-year old boys.
Now that I’m older and understand authority a little better, I realize that Mr. Tucker didn’t really care if we did it or not. We were going to get the blame because someone complained about kids on HIS watch, and blaming us was easier than going out to find who ACTUALLY did it. Not knowing that at the time, we kept claiming our innocence.
Mr. Tucker told us, with a sneer on his face that would seem comical to me today, that he would interview us one at a time while the other two sat in the foyer outside of his office. The first boy went in and the two of us sat outside of the door. We could hear the beating being delivered on the other side of that door and it still haunts me to this day. Every loud ‘THUD’ of a fist hitting that kid was followed by the sound of a frightened and confused child wailing into the dead, empty, fake wood, panel board and flickering overhead neon lights.
The two of us in the hallway, clutching our green pleather bound chairs with tiny white hands, looked at each other with both fear and understanding. We knew what we had to do lest we suffer that same humiliating fate, and we’d have to do it in order to STOP it from happening to our friend any longer. In a slow steady motion, we hesitantly stood up in unison; we cautiously walked to the door and pushed it open. Our eyes were saucer wide and filled with tears. We didn’t know it at the time, but what we were about to do was compromise a basic principle of life: innocent until proven guilty. We walked in and told the dean what he wanted to hear. The consequences don’t much matter now; I can hardly remember them.
Today I’m a man, and though the quixotic illusions of boyhood have long since faded, my Spaghetti Western sense of what’s right has not. No longer am I that little boy who was helpless to fight an imposed guilt. When I do something wrong, I will admit that I did something wrong, but God help the person who levies a false condemnation against me because you better believe that I will fight tooth and nail to see that injustice rectified; and since I am not a rich man, nor an attorney, this blog and the words I put into it are the recourse with which I choose to fight injustice, in this instance, The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority.
As I’m providing a link to news agencies, I want them and you to know that I went into this blog with the full intention of not cursing. Although my writing elsewhere is littered with the frequent ‘f’ bomb, I labored to keep it from this communication so that I could attempt to express myself more succinctly and in a language, some would be more likely to respond to, not that some would find more appropriate. Some people may believe that cursing is used by those who cannot form coherent sentences and don’t have a grasp of the well-placed adjective, I believe myself to be neither of those. I curse often and I curse well, and I believe curse words are just words used in everyday life, words used to express one’s frustration, anger, or incalculable unbelief in a flawed system. Be that as it may, I have DILIGENTLY edited myself down to only the barest minimum of, what I believe, are NEEDED words of indignation. If reprinting, feel free to “!@#$#” where necessary.
The Illinois Tollway System is a ‘New Yorker’ Cartoon Villain
On September 27th 2016, I received a letter via USPS that contained toll violations from the Illinois Tollway System, in the amount of sixty-four dollars and fifty cents. Apparently, I went through three tolls without having a sufficient balance on my I-Pass account. No problem, my fault. I immediately called the Illinois Tollway Call Center to pay the fines.
The young lady I spoke with informed me that because I am an I-Pass account holder, and because I was calling within sixty days of being notified of the toll violations, their policy was to wave the fines and allow me to just pay for the tolls, which would come to four dollars and fifty cents. Great, even better.
Remember that: The Illinois Tollway policy is to WAIVE fines for I Pass account holders if they call to pay within sixty days of being notified. This is not open to interpretation as I have a supervisor saying this to me on tape.
As the young lady began typing, she exclaimed “WHOA!” in a somewhat inappropriate manner for a call center representative. “Is everything ok?” I inquired, to which she replied “Mr. Hempen, you seem to have fines totaling five-thousand, seven-hundred and forty dollars. I can’t take payment for the current fine until you pay this amount. How would you like to make that payment today?”
I was immediately taken aback. FIVE THOUSAND? I hadn’t even been on the tollway enough in my lifetime to accumulate such a fee! “What are you talking about, fines for what?” I asked “Apparently, you had several violations in 2013 and you never paid the fines, they’ve escalated since then. You were notified in 2013.”
I was not notified in 2013, a point which I’ve since proven, but we’ll get to that. I asked to speak with a supervisor who came to the phone with an immediately combative attitude. She repeated what the other lady had just said and ended with “How would you like to pay for that today?” Now I was getting a little pissed because these people were brick walling me. “Ma’am, I’ve worked in a call center for the electric company where I was threatened and talked down to for 8 hours a day; I know how to talk to call center workers, and I haven’t even opened my mouth yet. I understand that people probably call and yell and scream and complain, but I’m simply trying to find out what you people are talking about.”
With a huff, the supervisor told me that three separate violation notices were sent out in 2013. Because I was an I-Pass account holder, she would ‘settle’ the amount for 324 dollars. I asked her to tell me the address these original violations were sent to and she gave me an address in Smithboro, Illinois, near St. Louis, that I have never lived at in my life. When I told her this, she said that this was the address associated with my license plate number as they received it from the Secretary of State.
Remember that too, because it’s a lie.
I told her that can’t be true because I’ve lived at my current address since 2007. I renew my license plate with the Secretary of State, every year AT this address. My state ID was renewed AT MY CURRENT address BY the Secretary of State’s office in 2012, so in 2013 the Secretary of State couldn’t have had a different address for me.
When I asked why they didn’t use my address as they have had the correct and current one in their I-Pass system since 2007, I was told the following: “The violation system and the I-Pass systems aren’t connected. We HAVE to go to the Secretary of State for your information because SO many drivers go through the tolls”
Let’s break that statement down. The violation system and the I-Pass systems aren’t connected? Then why is it that every time I call about a FINE, the first thing the Illinois Tollway call center asks for is my I-PASS account number? They look up my fines using the I-Pass system! So, they’re OBVIOUSLY connected. And yes, there may be a lot of drivers going through the tolls, but NOT that many of them are violating. IF a violation occurs, it occurs because there aren’t sufficient funds in the I-Pass account, correct? That means that the I-Pass account was accessed first, was found to be empty, and THEN an address is requested from the Secretary of State? WHY!?!?!?!?!?! IT IS CONNECTED. We all know why though don’t we? Because the longer they can drag out this process, the more debt the Illinois Tollway can create.
Then I asked a fairly obvious question: “Let’s say I had an insufficient balance on my I-Pass account when I went through a toll. Rather than charge me 5000 dollars over the course of 3 years, which seems to be a number which grows arbitrarily and exponentially, why wouldn’t your system just deduct the one dollar and fifty cents from my account once I added money to it, which I did BEFORE you even sent out the first violation notices back in 2013?” This question was answered with a huff of exasperation, “Huuuuuuuuuhhh, because the systems aren’t connected.” Again, like I’m the idiot for not knowing that. Yes, they are. You’re a liar Illinois Tollway System; you’re a bad, bad system. You are the troll to my Billy Goat Gruff.
Why doesn’t their computer system, using my license plate number, simply attempt to charge my I-Pass account again and THEN send out a violation notice if funds haven’t been added within a certain amount of time? Instead they go to an outside agency, in this case the Secretary of State, to gather my living arrangement rather than just collecting that information from my I-Pass account which I would have to imagine is more readily available and reliable, because I enter that information personally when I sign up.
Now, this is where many of you would say, 5,000 to 300? You’re getting off easy, just pay the three-hundred. No. First and foremost, the fact that they would drop the number so arbitrarily proves to me that they’re full of shit. Second, I was NOT informed of these fines. If the Illinois Tollway’s policy is to waive the fines for I-Pass account holders when they call within 60 days of being notified of violations, and I was never notified…why should I pay ANY fine? This is their policy, they wrote this policy, they repeated this policy to me in a recorded conversation.
The supervisor then said to me “How would you like to pay these fines today?” as if reading from a script, to which I said I would NEVER pay these fines. Admittedly, I was getting pissed. This bitch copped an attitude from the get-go and she was about to catch these hands, fam.
“Since you’re not going to pay your fines Mr. Hempen, I will be suspending your I-Pass account as of today, and recommending that your driver’s license be suspended.” She said to with all the disinterest of ANY girl I’ve tried to pick up in a bar.
Rather than explode Nagasaki style and because I was getting nowhere with this supervisor, I hung up the phone and began to do some investigating on my own. I looked into the address in Smithboro, Illinois and found that the person living there was a 61-year-old Michael J. Hempen. I am the 43-year-old Michael A. Hempen.
Now, if you type in MY license plate number on the Secretary of State’s computer system, MY information comes up. That’s how computers work. If you type in ONE number incorrectly, a different person’s information may come up. IF you are looking for me, Michael A. Hempen and you type in ANY fucking license plate number in the United States of America and the resulting information is Michael J. Hempen? Well then you need to play the lottery because the odds of that happening just don’t exist. My postulation is that the Illinois Tollway system looked me up by name, and sent a letter to the first address that popped up.
Why do I think this? Because the very next Saturday morning I took my driver’s license, state I.D. card, car registration with my license plate number on it, FOID card, credit cards and a few bills with my home address on them and brought my investigative ass down to the secretary of state’s driver’s license facility. I waited among wailing infants, smelly soap less choads and angry assholes trying desperately to circumvent their suspended licenses so that they could once again drive drunkenly home from the liquor store at 3 in the morning.
After an hour of enduring the best that humanity and the Trump voter base has to offer, my number was called. The dead eyed facility person, obviously just back from a ‘smoke’ break as her piss yellow stained teeth belied her dragon breath, asked for all of my information and I handed over everything I had. She said “Whaddaya want, hon?” I simply asked her if my driver’s license number matched my license plate number and address. “Yes” she said and the lie was exposed.
But, just for the sake of argument, let’s say the Illinois Tollway went to the Secretary of State, with my License plate number, and asked for my address; in this scenario, we’ll assume the Secretary of State gave the tollway the wrong address. Not an OLD address, a completely WRONG address. How is that MY fault? IF the Secretary of State would admit to this mistake, will they send a letter of apology to the Tollway asking that my fines be waived? Would the Tollway even listen? WHO can I take this issue up with? Nobody, I though. This would be an endless quagmire of dogged bullshit that would result in my STILL being told to pay these fines.
The Illinois Tollway vs. Michael A. Hempen: Round 2
After calming down a bit, I wrote down some questions I wanted to know from the Illinois Tollway System. I would relay to them the proof I had regarding the Secretary of State having my correct address since 2007 and the information I had obtained regarding the incorrect address, at which they sent the notifications.
After speaking with two different call center reps, I got a gentleman named Todd F. Now, I recorded this conversation as I have an app on my cell phone that allows me to do so. I asked Todd about the Illinois Tollway policy regarding waiving fees for I-Pass account holders. I asked him for the violation number that were sent to Smithboro, Illinois, and I explained to him my situation. He told me, as had been told to me before that he couldn’t waive the fines on his level. What level CAN waive the fines, I asked. Todd F. gave me an address I could send a letter to, told me to include my proof, and said that he wouldn’t be surprised if they waived the original toll fee’s as well as the fines.
I don’t want the original toll fees waived. If I went through without having a sufficient balance on my I-Pass account, so be it. It’s these fines that I have issue with.
With this information, I wrote the following letter to the Illinois Tollway System:
“To: Illinois Tollway Special Projects
From: Michael Allen Hempen
I-Pass Account #: —————
License Plate #: ————–
RE: Toll Violations
Good afternoon Sir or Madame,
After speaking with several people in your call center, I was directed by a supervisor named Todd F., to bring this issue to your attention as he was unable to mitigate a resolution at his level.
Upon receiving a notice of toll violations via USPS on 09/27/2016, I immediately called the Illinois Tollway Call Center at 1-800-824-7277. When making arrangements to pay my fines, I was told that I had previous fines totaling $5740.00, stemming from 6 violation notices, listed below along with the dates they were sent out:
- VS132324622 10/07/13
- VS131967330 10/26/13
- VW132613273 11/07/13
- VW132622098 11/08/13
- VW132726068 11/20/13
I never received any of the above violation notices, and I informed the woman from your call center who was assisting me that I would have paid and resolved any outstanding fines immediately had I known these violations existed. I was informed that the Illinois Tollway was sending the notices to an address obtained from the Secretary of State:
Smithboro Ill. 62284
Upon investigating this address, I discovered that there is an individual named Michael J. Hempen (see attached) on record at that address, a person who is of no relation to me and whom I’ve never met. I have attached a copy of my state ID card issued March 26, 2012 that displays my current, accurate address along with my vehicle registration which will relay my license plate number and home address, where I’ve resided since well before the initial violation occurred in 2013. My renewed state ID card is proof that this address has been on file with the Secretary of State since before these fines were sent out.
In all of the time that has passed since these original violation notices were sent out, I have never once received any indication that these violations existed. When I incurred additional fines from not paying the original amount, I was not informed. When these fines were sent to the collection agency of Harris & Harris, I was not informed. Harris & Harris has never contacted me to attempt to collect this debt although my address is available as public record, as well as being on file with the Secretary of State.
Even though the correct contact information is and has been available on my I-Pass account since May of 2013, I’ve never received an email notifying me that these fines exist, though I receive occasional emails warning me that my balance is low. Also, in all the times I’ve made payments on my I-Pass account, there has never been an indication that these fines exist. Had I received the proper notification, I could have resolved the unpaid tolls and avoided the subsequent violations that have accumulated in the months and years since then. Why am I just now finding out about the previous violations, having my account suspended because of them, and not being allowed to pay the recent fine?
As it is the policy of the Illinois Tollway to allow I-Pass users to pay only the original toll fee within 60 days of being notified of a violation, and as I was never notified as proven by the attached documents, my request is that I be allowed now to pay only the original toll fees, that the debt be removed from collections, and that my I-Pass account be reinstated so that I can pay the new fees I’ve so recently incurred.
I would also like to point out that as a state of Illinois employee and a former call center associate with ComEd, I appreciate the training given to your call center associates, the respect and understanding shown to me by them and the assistance I received from Todd F. when I called on 10/01/16 to ask for further information and who I might speak with to expedite a resolution to this issue.
Thank you for your assistance regarding this issue and I look forward to hearing from you in a timely manner, as I’m not allowed to pay my current fine until the old one is resolved, meaning that it could escalate should a resolution not be forthcoming.
Feel free to contact me in any one of the following ways:
Cell Phone Number: ——————-
Work Phone Number: ——————-
Personal Email Address: ———–———-
Work Email Address: ——————–
Home Address: —————————–
With respect & regards,
Michael Allen Hempen”
Along with this letter I included a print out from the White Pages website, which stated the man’s name living at the address in Smithboro, Illinois along with a copy of my state ID card and vehicle registration.
Now think about what I say in that letter: THEY have all my correct information in their computer systems, and have had the SAME correct information since May of 2013 when I first bought a transponder and registered my account on line. Why the FUCK do they need to go to an outside agency, the Secretary of State’s office to look up information that is available in their own house? Why isn’t their ‘violation’ system tied to their ‘I-Pass’ system? This seems like an easy thing to do and would resolve 99 percent of the problems many people have in regard to these erroneous fines.
Without accusing the Illinois Tollway System of extortion, I thought the letter I sent pretty much said it all. With the proof so provided, and with Todd F.’s encouragement, I was sure this letter would go to a higher authority within the Illinois Tollway System, and be fairly deliberated with the same spirit of justice with which was sought in its intent.
What the Fuck was I Thinking?
Three days later, and I was shocked that it only took three days, I received a phone call from the call center. I was told by a young lady reading a script – and this is obvious in the recording I made of the conversation – that they received my letter, but because the individual that the original violations were sent to never sent them back a letter stating that I (Michael A. Hempen) didn’t live at that address, I was responsible for the fines.
Let’s take a moment to absorb the unmitigated stupidity of that statement. The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority sent a violation notice to someone that neither they, NOR I know, someone with whom my license plate number which they claim to be the well from which they gather their information, has absolutely no connection to. This is a complete and total stranger to me. Because this individual, upon receiving a violation notice from the Illinois Tollway System, didn’t sit down to compose a thoughtful letter relaying that they were misinformed as to the living arrangements of Michael A. Hempen, I am now responsible for all fines stemming from their mistake and a total stranger’s inaction.
The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority essentially shoved their hand in my face and said, “Fuck you, pay me.”
Also, the letter I sent at Todd F.’s suggestion, just went right back to the call center. This wasn’t even a supervisor calling me back, she was just a customer service representative. Apparently, there IS NO person you can rationally speak with.
I have attempted to talk rationally with the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority in hopes of coming to a resolution of this issue; I have sent them a letter explaining the situation and providing proof of their mistakes; I even asked them to let me have a hearing in front of a judge, which they denied because they say these fines have already gone to collections.
To sum up, the Illinois Tollway system is telling me to pay fines that I was never informed of, that I am responsible for erroneous information gathered by them, that I am responsible for the actions or inactions of a total stranger, that I cannot contest these fines in a court of law, that they are responsible for lowering my credit rating by sending those unpaid fines to a collection agency who has never contacted me, that I cannot pay the recent fines that I WAS made aware of until the old fines are paid, meaning that the legitimate fines will collect more fines; they have threated to petition the Secretary of State to have my Driver’s License suspended, they have threatened to have my wages garnished, and they have banned me from using the Illinois Tollway all in demand of fines totaling over five thousand dollars that stem from 16 supposed missed tolls. And to be clear, 16 sounds like a lot, but that’s only 2 days of using the tollway for a total of twenty-four dollars.
Still want me to just pay the fines?
Four Out of the Last Seven Illinois Governors Say Jail is GRRRRRRRRRREAT!
Between Government scandal, abuse and a seemingly strict policy of non-transparency, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority has continued to exist amid accusations of wrongdoing and controversy since its inception in the ‘50’s. From their unnecessarily opulent, marble floored and helipad equipped headquarters, dubbed by politicians “The Taj Mahal,” to their unmitigated gall at charging INTER state travelers a toll at all, to drive on roads paid for by gasoline taxes.
Illinois may not be the only state to have toll roads, but it IS the only state that has toll roads specifically intended for its residents. Every other state that has a toll road uses it for out of state truckers, passing through that state, towards their intended destination; east-west mother fuckers, east-west. The Illinois tollway is North-South, intended for commuting Illinois workers. They’ve used every excuse from “The tollway is needed to fix roads!” to “We need the toll money to keep schools open!” Meanwhile we have the worst roads, the closed-ed ass schools and all of this toll money going in the pockets of future jail bound politicians. We’re done with it.
From my research into this ‘authority,’ I’ve found that they are that only unto themselves; meaning that the Illinois Toll Highway Authority operates independently of the Illinois General Assembly. Who Governs this body? WHO can I turn to in order to lodge a complaint against unfair practices, price gouging, extortion, and fraud? Because NOBODY at ISTHA can seem to give me this information.
The people of Illinois pay the highest taxes in the United States of America; 36 percent higher than the national average…THIRTY-SIX PERCENT. That means that if you pay a yearly property tax on your beach front property in California of three thousand dollars, you would pay four thousand for the same property in a cornfield near a polluted tollway in Illinois. And what does that 36 percent buy us? Do we have the best schools, the lowest crime rates, the best quality of life, or the least congested roads? No, on all counts.
A few years ago, a friend and I went on a road trip to Deadwood South Dakota in February. This should have been a fifteen-hour drive. From my home, to the Wisconsin border should have taken an hour and 45 minutes of that 15 hours, however because of congestion, construction and accidents it took us three hours and 20 minutes. Guess what happened when we hit Wisconsin? The roads opened up like Moses parting the Red Sea. All through Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota, we didn’t come across ONE piece of construction or traffic though there was a blizzard happening through most of the drive.
Illinoisans have been getting screwed over by politicians using roadways as a platform to improve their own ends since Len Small was Governor back in 1921. That’s right, ole Len there would tell counties, “Vote for me or you don’t get a paved road.” This was just one of the reasons for his indictment for conspiracy, embezzlement and operation of a confidence game a year after he took office. But don’t worry, one hour after the trial was over Len was acquitted and eight of the jurors along with the presiding judge’s three brothers went off to start work at their new state jobs.
More recently both George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich went to jail after being convicted of a multitude of charges that included giving ISTHA contracts out in return for campaign contributions. Mo’ money, less problems. As Ryan was leaving office, one of Blagojevich’s first actions as Governor was to DOUBLE the tolls at the suggestion of ISTHA. Why? Because ISTHA told him that he could blame the hike on Ryan.
These are all matters of public record, but what you might not know about are the thousands, possibly millions of Illinois drivers and out-of-state drivers who pass through Illinois and are being extorted by the Illinois Toll Highway Authority. Ask a neighbor or a friend; more than likely you’ll hear a nightmare story of them being charged thousands, in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars for missed tolls that equaled a combined total of ten dollars when they occurred. Hell, call ISTHA yourself and ask if YOU have any unpaid fines.
When speaking with a lawyer recently, I told him that I was having an issue with ISTHA; he said, “Let me guess, you have fines totaling thousands of dollars that you weren’t aware of? This happened to my wife and I, but we just paid the fines.” Sure, if you have the money, you may just want to pay it, but three hundred and twenty dollars is a lot of money to me, and to most of you out there.
Besides making you aware of these events as they’ve happened to me, I’ve sent a link to this blog post along with a brief summary to every news agency I could think of. I’ve since heard back from Dave Savini from Channel 2 News; here’s a link to one of his reports on ISTHA:
I’ve also sent a letter to the FCC and as I said above, I’ve contacted a lawyer. Be it by any of these routes, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority needs to admit it’s wrongdoing and be held accountable for its flawed practices.
I’m willing to admit that I may indeed have gone through tolls as ISTHA claims, without enough funds in my I-Pass account, though I’ve never seen the proof of this. But by saying that their mistakes are my responsibility, ISTHA has levied a false condemnation against me and you better believe that I will fight tooth and nail using any legal means at my disposal to see that injustice rectified. I will not be extorted by these people, and neither should you.
I will update this blog post as things move forward.
Michael A. (That’s ‘A’ God-damnit!) Hempen (11/02/16)
The lawyer I spoke with looked into my case and told me that I could win…but it would cost more in legal fees than the 324 dollars the tollway was now demanding from me. I elected to not move forward.
Dave Savini talked to me once on the phone and told me he’d get back to me after he was done with a current piece he was working on. I’ve not heard back from him.
I could not get ahold of any tollway authority outside of the call center.
In a last-ditch effort, I sent an email to the secretary of state’s office. I mentioned way at the beginning of this blog that I was sure this would not garner any results, but I was wrong.
In the email, I sent, I informed the SOS office that the tollway had threatened my driver’s license over these fines and that their reasoning was that the SOS had given them the wrong information. I told of my adventure to the SOS office for confirmation of my correct information and that the tollway system was dragging their good name through the mud by blaming my erroneous fines on the SOS.
An hour after I sent my email to the Secretary of State’s office, I received a phone call from a Secretary of State Police Office (a title that I didn’t even know existed) who we’ll call Officer Tim. Officer Tim asked for my information so that he could confirm that their information was indeed, correct. He asked for my fine numbers and told me that he’d call the tollway and get back to me.
Two days later, Officer Tim called me back. Officer Tim told me that ISTHA did NOT receive the address in Smithboro Illinois from the Secretary of State’s office. He further told me that they lied when they said that Michael J. Hempen in Smithboro never notified them that they had sent their fine notifications to the wrong address. Officer Tim knew this because he called Michael J. Hempen personally.
It seems that upon receiving the wrong fines, Mr. Hempen went through his OWN hoops with ISTHA trying to prove to them the he was not the person they were looking for. They called him a liar and threatened his license as well. Mr. Hempen then contacted the state’s attorney general, who investigated Mr. Hempen’s claim and sent ISTHA the equivalent of a “Cease and Desist” letter, telling them to leave Mr. Hempen alone, he is the wrong Hempen.
Officer Tim contacted the State’s Attorney General office and obtained a copy of this letter, proving that ISTHA was indeed informed that they were sending these fine notices to the wrong address. He then called ISTHA.
Officer Tim told me that he relayed all of this information to the supervisor at the toll way call center (Apparently, there was no higher authority even HE could contact), they told him that they would be happy to reduce my fines to 324 dollars. Officer Tim taken aback, then said “I don’t think you understand, Michael A. Hempen pays you nothing. Not even the original tolls at this point.” He told me that in all of his years as a police officer, he’d never been talked to like the woman talked to him from the call center of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority. “Mr….” she began. “OFFICER” he reminded her. “Officer Tim, I can’t waive these fines at this level, but what I can do is offer Mr. Hempen a lower settlement of 300 dollars.” Officer Tim relayed to me HIS frustration at this point. He said he had to remind this supervisor that HE has the authority to tell ISTHA to waive fines, which he was doing at that moment. He also reminded the supervisor the ISTHA does NOT have the authority to threaten someone’s driver’s license with suspension. Officer Tim spent the next 40 minutes on the phone and eventually had all of my fines removed.
ISTHA later called me to confirm this, reinstate my I Pass account and assure me that the collection agency would be notified that day.
I can’t thank officer Tim enough for his help in this matter. He’ll see the entirety of this issue as I’ve given him a link to this blog, along with Dave Savini and the lawyer I spoke with, because fuck them for not being more helpful. It just proves that in life you can sometimes get help from the unlikeliest of places.
Let me know of your Illinois State Toll Highway Authority dealings in the comments section of this blog, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.