PATERSON, NJ – Daniel Champagnie of Presidential Boulevard probably won't park near any water- or slush-filled potholes ever again. That mistake, which caused his car to be covered with muck sprayed by passing vehicles, is what started his auto ordeal back in February.

Authorities mistakenly thought his car was abandoned, ticketed it and towed it away. Even after he proved his innocense in municipal court, Champagnie still couldn't get his car out of the city pound without paying towing storages fees that exceeded $2,000.

On May 3, Champagnie took his case to the city council, which asked the city legal department to intervene on Champagnie's behalf., But a day later, Champagnie was still waiting on the law department to take action and the deadline of May 7, when the pound said it would put his 1997 Saturn up for auction was looming.

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That's when Council President Aslon Goow stepped. Goow made a phone call and within a couple hours Champagnie was back behind the wheel of his car.

"They tried to say it was broken down and abandoned,'' he said. "After all that time, it started right up. No problem.''

"It's a real shame that the council president who's trying to straighten out the problems in the city has to take his time to deal with something as simple as this,'' said Champagnie. "It seems to me that whoever had the authority to tow my car also should have had the authority to give my car back to me.''

Goow said Champagnie's car should have never been towed in the first place. "Sometimes, guys make a bad call,'' said the council president.

Goow said the pound operator, Classic Towing, released the car without getting a firm commitment on whether the city will provide reimbursement for the storage charges or if the pound will eat the loss.

At some point, Goow said, the city needs to set a policy on dealing with towing and storage fees for folks whose tickets end up being dismissed.

"Is Classic going to be compensated? That remains to be seen,'' Goow said.