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N4T Investigators: She fought city hall...and won - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: She fought city hall...and won

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Tucson - Kimberley Brooke drove into a downtown parking garage recently, unknowingly beginning a three-month ordeal.

As we first reported on Nov. 20, Brooke parked in the city-owned Depot Plaza Garage on N. 5 Ave. When she returned 10 hours later and put the car in reverse, she heard a loud noise. "And so I freak out," she told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. "I jump out of the car, and I look down there and there's a four inch piece of rebar sticking out from the concrete. Couldn't believe it." 

The rebar, or steel reinforcing rod, had come out of the wheel stop, the concrete barrier at the front of the parking spot. The front bumper and undercarriage on Brooke's 1999 BMW were damaged. The bumper doesn't look bad now but Brooke says that's because a friend Jerry-rigged it to hold it together. 

We asked Brooke if it could have been her fault. "Could you have hit the barricade and caused that post to come up and hit your undercarriage?" She said, "No. I felt nothing when I pulled in and I always stay back because the bumper on my car is so low to the ground." She insists the rod was not sticking out of the ground when she parked that morning, that she would have seen it and her car would have been blocked by it. A repair shop estimated the damage at 500 dollars. She thinks the city should pay, so she filed a claim. It was initially denied.  When she received the denial letter, she said, "I was shocked, I couldn't believe what I was reading." 

The city's Risk Manager, Allie Matthews, told us last month that city code states the city cannot be held responsible unless the unsafe or defective condition is reported "at least 72 hours prior to the occurrence resulting in...damage."  Matthews said in Brooke's case, the city had not received any prior complaints about problems with that parking spot. 

Matthews said, "Like this particular lady, we too were a victim because it was damaged. We had to repair that particular rebar." 

We reported on Kim's claim being denied by the city two and a half weeks ago. But then, this week, Kim received a phone call from the city. She told us, "Risk management called about my parking garage claim and said they were going to honor my claim. So yay, thank you very much City of Tucson, much appreciated."

Why did the city change its mind?  City spokesperson Lane Mandle said no one was available for an on-camera interview, but in a statement, Mandle said, "After the risk management review of the claim, the claim was reviewed by the city manager's office and the city attorney, and the decision was made to pay the claim based on facts of the claim and the settlement amount." 

Councilman Steve Kozachik says he asked Risk Management to take another look at Kimberley's claim. "I saw your story," Kozachik told us, "And I thought it was something that was worth looking into." 

We asked Kozachik, "Going forward, what if somebody is lying about their claim, and it was their fault, what is the city to do, you can't pay out every claim. He said, "Look, we have a good risk management department. In this case, they took a second look at it and they flipped their decision. "

So Kimberley Brooke's check is in the mail. She found out that you can fight city hall. And that once in a while, you can win. 

Brooke told us, "Without you, without KVOA, I would have been out $500. Now I can get my car  fixed."

Kozachik says no one should get the idea that this reversal on Kimberley's claim is going to open the floodgates for every claim to be paid. The city says it processes about 1300 claims a year and pays out roughly 500. If you see an unsafe condition in a parking garage, or a pothole on a street, you should report it to the city immediately.

If you have a story you'd like us to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call our tip line at 520-955-4444. 

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