The owner of a 20-year-old Mercedes-Benz that was sold to a parts dealer for $100 at a city auction while she was trying to recover it will receive $1,025 for her loss.
And the owner of a Jeep Wrangler used by the city Parking Violations Bureau for five years while he tried to get it back will collect $3,500 for damage and depreciation.
The Common Council Claims Committee approved both payments this week on recommendation of the Law Department.
"I hope we don't see any more of this," said Council Member at Large Charley H. Fisher III, whose questions brought out the details of the two cases.
After the meeting, the college student who owned the 1980 Mercedes-Benz said she tried to get her car back before February's auction and was incorrectly told that it already had been sold.
"They tell me the car was auctioned off, which was a lie," said Asimina Perikleous, 24, a native of Greece who came here five years ago. "I think someone took advantage of me."
Perikleous said her troubles began when she lived briefly on North Street in summer 1999 and the Mercedes, bought from its original owner, was towed for being illegally parked.
"I reported it stolen," she said.
When she learned it had been impounded, she said, she paid all the parking fines and the towing fee before reclaiming it.
In December, she returned to Greece for the holidays, flying out of Toronto.
A friend, who drove the Mercedes back from Toronto, was stopped at the border as the driver of a stolen car.
Relatives rescued her friend, but the car was impounded again and remained that way when she returned from Greece in January.
Perikleous said that the first time she telephoned the city impound on Dart Street, she was incorrectly told the car was auctioned off, and the second time, the person who answered hung up.
"My belief is that someone from that garage liked that car," she said. "They told me that it was auctioned off when it really wasn't."
On her next call, she was informed that the car was still there, but by the time she enlisted the help of the Police Department, it was gone, Perikleous said.
Corporation Counsel Michael Risman told the claims panel that the car was listed as stolen because of a police error.
The car was auctioned for $100 to EDS Auto Parts, he said. Fisher said a Mercedes-Benz is a Mercedes-Benz. "Why would we sell it for $100?" he asked.
"It did not have wheel covers," said Risman. "It was not in very good shape."
Not so, said Perikleous, who bought the car from her uncle.
"It had all four wheel covers with the little Benz symbols," she said. "I had the car for three years, and there were no major problems. It wasn't like it has holes all over it.
The second impounded vehicle, the 1987 Jeep Wrangler, was seized in 1992 and used by the Parking Violations Bureau for five years, Risman said.
The owner, Douglas Pressly of Beverly Road, initially was unable to pay accumulated costs, Risman said. He said Parking Violations took the car because the city is entitled under state law to keep 20 percent of vehicles from an auction.
"Mr. Pressly gave numerous complaints to various state and federal agencies," said Risman.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau backed up Pressly and said the vehicle should be returned, Risman told Council members.
"Technically, I didn't think we had done anything wrong," Risman told the panel. "We had the vehicle for five years. We did give him back the Jeep."
Fisher said, "We should be careful and vigilant so citizens do not have to go through this kind of thing."
The panel approved a payment of $3,500 to Pressly.
Delaware Council Member Mark Coppola asked Risman to make sure any parking tickets owed by Pressly are deducted from the claim.
The panel also approved a payment of $474 to the Italian Festival Committee for damage to a piano at the close of the festival in July.