New Rome, Ohio is one of the smallest towns in America, but it's big on tickets. New Rome's cops give out more than 2,000 tickets a year — pretty remarkable because the town's main street is just four blocks long.
Jim Bussey got a $108 speeding ticket there when he didn't notice the speed limit suddenly dropping from 45 miles per hour to 35. After he learned about the town's reputation, Bussey started a Web site called newromesucks.com.
On his Web site, Bussey posts stories from people who've been ticketed while driving through New Rome. Bussey said, "I've had people e-mail me, they got pulled over because their license plate was too dim. They didn't have enough bolts holding their license plate on. I even had one person e-mail me and tell me, they just pulled over and it's like, 'Can I see your green card.'"
One driver said police fined him for using a license plate frame that partially obscured the bottom of the plate, even though the driver bought it at the department of motor vehicles.
Shana Moore's story is also posted on Bussey's site. Moore's now suing the town, which denies any wrongdoing. She says she and her family were pulled over in New Rome. When the officer thought Moore had an unpaid ticket — she didn't — Moore says he threw her against the patrol car, cuffed her and arrested her. When her mother complained, he cuffed and arrested her, too.
"I was scared.… this is a police officer. He can do anything he wants to you," Moore said.
He can, which is scary, and it is one reason Ohio officials like Attorney General Jim Petro are upset about New Rome. Petro says New Rome raises more than 90 percent of its $400,000 budget from tickets, "most of which" according to Petro, "is then spent to employ a police force."
"They don't have road maintenance, they don't have anything but a police force that writes tickets all day," Bussey said.
David Tisler, a member of New Rome's village council, thinks what the city does is just fine.
I told him that the town taking in money just to ticket more people sounds like a scam. Tisler said, "It's not. It's a lie. If you're legal, you ain't gonna have no problems.
A Little Graft — What's the Big Deal?
Another odd thing about New Rome is the level of corruption. Thousands of dollars have been stolen by town officials. Another $112,000 is missing.
I said to Tisler: "The previous clerk stole $56,000. In 1993 another clerk admitted to stealing several thousand dollars. Two years before that, other officials resigned due to misuse of town credit cards."
Tisler was unfazed, "Anytime you're dealing with money, dealing with people, you're taking a chance. Ain't you." He said he didn't steal any of it (and we have no evidence that he did), and he didn't understand "what the big deal is."
If you are in New Rome, you better drive very slowly. Or, better yet, don't go there at all.
Give me a break!