(WSVN) - In South Florida, you know if you see a sign that says “no parking” and park there, you are going to be towed. But what if it’s a portable sign that is brought in on certain days? Can you be towed even if you say the sign was brought in after you parked? It’s why one driver turned to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

If you are going to go from one climate extreme to the other, it would be hard to top Mikhail Romanenko.

Mikhail Romanenko: “I’m from Siberia. It’s central Russia. Far away from here and completely cold compared with this. South Beach is a very, very beautiful place. We all enjoy to be there.”

Mikhail works on South Beach and, like the locals, he quickly learned to fear the tow trucks.

Mikhail Romanenko: “So I know the rules. I don’t mess with them. I know that your car can be towed.”

Then, when he went to his job at a restaurant one evening, he parked his car.

Mikhail Romanenko: “It wasn’t the first time I parked in the same place. So I park around this area like almost every day, and I didn’t see the sign.”

The sign is what Miami Beach calls a “gorilla sign,” a portable sign about four feet tall that says “no parking from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.” A valet company rents the parking spaces from the city on some nights, and that’s when the city brings in the sign.

And it was on one of those nights when Mikhail left work.

Mikhail Romanenko: “And I find out that my car was towed. Believe me, you don’t want to get that feel.”

Mikhail didn’t see his car, but he saw the portable sign.

Mikhail Romanenko: “When I parked my car, the sign wasn’t there. When I get out and I find out my car is not on the place, the sign was there.”

Tremont Towing told Mikhail it would cost $241 to get his car back. It takes the restaurant employee a lot of days to make that much money.

Mikhail Romanenko: “For me, I would say four and a half days of work.”

Mikhail paid the towing company, and the next day, he called Miami Beach Parking, where he was told he had put his car in valet parking, or what’s called a valet ramp.

Mikhail Romanenko: “And I said, ‘How I should know it was a valet ramp or it is not?’ But it doesn’t look like valet ramp. You don’t see any signs or any booth that the valet has. It’s just a regular parking meter.”

In the daytime, it’s parking meters. At night, the valet company uses it after the gorilla sign is plopped down, but Mikhail says he didn’t see the little sign when he parked.

Mikhail Romanenko: “I feel stunned. It wasn’t fair.”

Well, Howard, this is a short portable sign that Mikhail says he didn’t see. Is he at fault?

Howard Finkelstein: “If this was a permanent sign, the city could just show a picture to prove that you parked there. But because it’s a smaller portable sign, the city not only has to prove you parked there. They should also have evidence that the gorilla sign was there before you parked, because if it was put there after you parked, you get your money back.”

We then called Miami Beach, and give them credit: They had everything documented on video.

On June 3rd, the evening Mikhail was towed, a city employee wearing a camera put out the gorilla sign and wrote down which cars were there when he got there. The cars already parked are not ticketed or towed, the city told us.

The city then showed us a second video from later that night telling us, “Mikhail clearly parked after the signs were posted, and the parking attendant confirms that before citing his vehicle and having it towed away.”

Mikhail Romanenko: “The parking in the City of Miami Beach is just disgusting.”

Nobody would argue parking on Miami Beach is tough, but should Mikhail get his ticket dismissed because he didn’t see the portable sign? We will find out.

Mikhail Romanenko: “Basically, I have a court hearing. I will try to explain to the judge it was not my mistake, and if he dismisses my tickets, I get my money back.”

Will telling the judge he didn’t see the small portable sign work? We will let you know when Mikhail goes to court. And, by the way, “no parking” signs have to be permanent and taller if they are on private property, but a government agency legally can use smaller gorilla signs on public property like Miami Beach does.

Someone parked a problem in your private space? Want it towed away? Contact us. We won’t go all ape on them, but we will bounce around till we find a solution for you.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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