The purpose of this blog post is to shine a light on current collection practices in the Village of Brookfield and urge policy reform which would make friendlier ties and better living for all in the community. This post is about one person, but the scenareo plays out over and over every day for many who live in town.

In September of 2012 we woke up to find a boot on my husband’s car. We were both stunned because my husband had been making payments to Armor Systems, who collects on the parking ticket accounts for the Village of Brookfield. My first call was to the Brookfield Police Department where I spoke with Caroline Pogwizd, who claimed they had not received any payments. I then called Armor Systems and it turned out they had received payments from my husband, but at some point had transposed some numbers on his credit card and the payments had stopped for a couple of months. Once we figured out where the hiccup was, we fixed it but both Ms. Pogwizd and the Brookfield Chief of Police, Steve Stelter, insisted that he would not honor the payment arrangement. When I called him at that time, my intent was to say, “Hey, we’re making payments, we’re trying to take care of this.” but what happened was that he berated me, insulted my integrity, and painted us to sound like deadbeats. 

The fact is that things are very tight for our family. It is not easy to say this publicly, but in order to shine some light on the treatment we’ve endured, I have to publicize that fact. It’s embarrassing to say that we can’t afford all of our bills right now. Humiliating even…a fact that Chief Stelter played on pretty hard. There are bills that we can’t afford to pay in full and have been making payments on in good faith. Would I love to be able to knock them all out? Heck yes! Is anyone capable of beating me up harder than I already have myself? Probably not. Does it warrant further browbeating? Absolutely no. 
[Side note: I sincerely dispute a handful of the tickets since they were for things like my camper being parked for more than 48 hours when I had documented proof that I had actually been out of town during that period…things like that. I don’t expect that proof to be honored and have long since resolved to just take the hit since “You can’t fight City Hall”. I mean hey, this is Cook County. When did we start letting facts into the argument? You get a ticket, you’re guilty. Period.]
Needless to say, with this attitude I got absolutely nowhere with Chief Stelter. He displayed absolutely no interest in discussing a resolution and kept changing the subject to my integrity and intelligence.
So to wrap that all up- We had a bill, we couldn’t afford all of it, we made payment arrangements with the collection agency, there was a problem with the credit card number being incorrectly entered, then the Village booted our car and demanded the entire balance in full plus a $500 fee to remove the boot. Effectively creating a situation that was impossible for us to resolve. We were going to lose our car.
It took multiple calls to lawyers, the ACLU, the Illinois Attorney General, and to our Congressman, but they finally agreed to honor the payment arrangement we had made with the collection agency and remove the boot. 
Now, at that same time I realized I had several parking tickets myself. It’s not that I didn’t know about them, but when you’re trying to get your family’s financial situation above water that sort of thing gets put lower on the list than say, groceries. So while I was working through the issue with my husband’s car, I went ahead and made a payment arrangement for my own debt.
Payments were automatically debited from my checking account for September and October. In November I lost my bank card and didn’t get all the accounts that were drawing off of it sorted out until after the holidays. A payment was made for January and set to auto draft on the 1st of each month moving foward until the debt was cleared.
Cut to this week. Now I have received the same boot letter from the Village. Once again I call and experience nearly verbatim the same altercation with both the Chief and Ms. Pogwizd as in September…Except this time they have a point to prove. They’re going to go twice as hard on me as before because they were publicly embarrassed by their unreasonably aggressive behavior.
Yesterday, after the insulting call with Chief Stelter I wrote to Village President Mike Garvey. I received no response from Mr. Garvey, but instead received an email from Village Manager Rick Ginex. In this email, Mr. Ginex (who never spoke with me or made any inquiries with me of any sort before sending this message) stated that I had not been forthcoming with them, that I had lied about my payment arrangement, that there had never been no auto debit plan in place. He then dismissed Chief Stelter’s behavior. 
I called the collection agency this morning. As it turns out, the rep from the Village called them yesterday and instructed them to cancel my payment for January and any future payments due to come off my card. I’m assuming they were hoping I wouldn’t follow up with Armor Systems, because no one told me. I had to call and find out. I called to check on my account because at this point I just don’t trust the situation.
As of now, I have filed formal complaints with our Congressman’s office, the ACLU, and the Illinois Attorney General’s office. 
The bottom line?
If the Village of Brookfield is interested in getting paid and empowering their citizens to do so with reasonable terms, then this situation will resolve itself with the reasonable terms which were set back in September.
If the Village of Brookfield (specificly Chief Stelter) is actually more interested in bullying the citizens, not empowering them to help themselves and honor their financial commitments instead of creating further hardships, then I suppose my car will be booted and towed as paying the balance along with all the added fees and fines creates an impossible situation for us to handle.
My question is, why would an ethically run office call a collection agency and instruct them NOT to accept payments from a debtor if the ultimate goal is to get paid?
Message received…I should probably sit down and shut up like a good girl. But the part of me that demands honest, ethical government is enraged. I want to see our leadership helping our citizens, not browbeating them when they’re doing the best they can.
As of 2:11pm on Friday 1/25, there has been no response to multiple emails sent to Village President Michael Garvey on the matter. Armor Systems reports that the Village unilaterally canceled my payment and future payments. The threat of my car being disabled is still present. I have calls into Congressman Gutierrez at both his Chicago and DC offices.
I will update as new facts develop. I pray for reason, compassion, and a positive outcome. Is that too much to hope for with our current Village government? I hope not.
UPDATE: After speaking with a rep from Armor Systems, it is typical for them to take payments on parking tickets for many of the municipalities they collect for, Brookfield included. If you owe a balance on parking tickets, reach out to them early. They really can help you make this debt eacher to manage.