Michigan city rejects man's attempt to pay $270 fine in pennies

By Ben Hooper Contact the Author   |   June 7, 2017 at 1:07 PM

June 7 (UPI) -- A Michigan man attempted to make a statement by paying his $270 fine in pennies, but city officials rejected the coins.

Brian McGonegal said he was outraged when the city of Jackson handed down a $270 fine last year for having rubbish in his yard -- which he said cost an additional $200 to have cleaned up -- so he decided to get even by making his payment entirely in pennies.

McGonegal brought 2,700 pennies to Jackson City Hall to make his first $27 installment on the fine, and he admitted he intentionally tried to make it more tedious for city workers by going in at 4:55 p.m. -- five minutes before City Hall closed for the day.

"[It was] on purpose," he told Mlive.com. "I decided I would be just penny ante as they were."

McGonegal's plans were foiled, however, when Jackson City Treasurer Randy Wrozek conferred with City Attorney Bethany Vujnov and confirmed that he didn't have to accept the payment.

Wrozek told McGonegal the city would not accept the pennies unless they were rolled -- or he paid the cost of having them rolled.

"It was foolish," Wrozek said. "We tried to accommodate him, but he said, 'Nope, you're counting these right now.'"

McGonegal returned to City Hall 11 times with bags of pennies to make installments on the fine and pay interest, but his coins were rejected each time.

The man appeared at a May 16 Jackson City Council meeting to complain about the rejected payments, but Wrozek said the fees would stand and have been passed along to Jackson County.

"This city is so full of themselves about, 'Well, we have to have everything picture perfect and it's got to look like an ideal little community that we're going to make you pay,'" McGonegal said. "And I think that attitude is wrong. We are not the servants of the city government, the city government is the servant to us."

McGonegal said he will not pay the fine and is willing to go to court.

Mike White of the U.S. Mint said cities are not obligated to accept payments made in pennies, which he said is an increasingly common practice across the country when people want to make their frustrations with public bodies known.

A Texas man, Brett Sanders, visited Frisco Municipal Court last year and dumped out nearly 22,000 pennies to pay a $212 fine. The city in that case decided to accept the pennies, and the coins were counted using two machines over a period of about three hours.

The Frisco payment hit only one minor snag -- "There was an overpayment of $7.81," City of Frisco spokeswoman Dana Baird told CNN at the time.

Sanders said he does not plan to collect his change.

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