In Erin, Tennessee, The Flood Zone on Highway 149 is serious about its bathrooms. When Patricia Barnes used the bathroom and then left without buying anything, the owner ran outside and wrote down the license plate of her car. Later, she received a $5 charge for the use of the bathroom. Putting aside that that is a pretty high cost for the use of a bathroom, Barnes wondered how the restaurant could have tracked down her address. The answer appears to be Houston County Sheriff Darrell Allison, who ran the plate for the restaurant.
There is so much wrong with this story. First, I am not sure what legal basis the restaurant has to insist on a $5 fee. It is not clear if the restaurant states such a fee outside of the bathroom.
The bigger problem is the role of Sheriff Allison who gave the information to a private business to charge an individual. Allison insists that he ran the plates because it was a possible crime. Presumably, that is the crime of using a bathroom without buying food?
If that is true, however, Allison notably did not file a police report or file charges. He simply handed over the information to a private citizen.
Allison insists that this is not a big deal and that he did nothing wrong. That makes this even more worrisome that Allison has no concept of basic rules of privacy and professionalism in law enforcement. Police are not supposed to work as agents of private citizens or businesses. Allison used public authority and resources to assist a private business. Not only did he turn his department into a glorified collection agency but did so solely on the word of this owner.
I am not sure why anyone would want to go to The Flood Zone given the extreme measures used by the owners. If you are on Highway 149, you might want to go down the road to “Sweet P” or “Jap Smith BarBQ.” if you do not want your license plates recorded.
Now for the most wonderful twist on the story, the owner of The Flood Zone said that she will no longer charge for bathrooms.
In the end, it is Allison that has the most explaining to do. He gave a private citizen the name and address of a couple after using official resources to track them down.
Kudos: Michael Blott