Broken Arrow Woman Frustrated Over Delay In Unclaimed Money

Monday, June 20th 2011, 5:56 pm
By: News On 6

Lori Fullbright, News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, Oklahoma -- A Broken Arrow woman found some money on the ground and turned it into police. She was told if no one claimed it, it would be hers.

So, why has it been nearly two years and she still hasn't gotten the money?

State law says if you find money and turn it in and no one collects it in at least 90 days, you can have it back.

News On 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright called Sapulpa and Claremore police and they both give it back in 90 days. Tulsa said they give it back in six months. None of them make a person go through the courts to get the money, but not so with Broken Arrow.

Deanna Ewton lives with her daughter and is on a fixed income. She was at the Broken Arrow Farmers Market on July 18th, 2009 when she found some money.

"I happened to look down on this side of the table. The vendor was on that side, and there was some money, folded up," she said.

She picked it up, asked around, then took it to the head of the market, who suggested she call police. So they did and she filled out a report. She never once thought about keeping it.

"There's so many people who live on a limited income like I do. I know what it would be like for me to lose $120," Deanna said.

She would've been thrilled had the owner claimed it, but they didn't, so she called the police property room and was told they wait until they get a certain number of cases, then take them all before the judge.

More time passed and she called the city council.  Then, more time, so she called the city attorney's office several times.

"It'll take a couple of weeks, a couple of months. I heard that time and time again," she said.

She asked News On 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright to call the City Attorney in March. They told Lori Fullbright the same thing: two more months. But that deadline has come and gone and next month, it'll be two years.

"Two years? Two years. It's so bizarre," Deanna said.

She said it's not even about the money anymore; it's the principal of it.

Read the step by step process from the Broken Arrow City Attorney's office

The Broken Arrow City Attorney's office said they'll have their application filed within two weeks, then a judge will set a hearing 10 to 20 days after that. Deanna must go to that hearing and make a claim and once the judge rules in her favor, then police can give her the money.

Recently in Tulsa, a homeless man turned in $800 he found by the river. As soon as the six months was up, the department tracked him down and gave him the money.

The Broken Arrow City Attorney's office refused an interview but emailed Lori Fullbright answers to her questions:

1. The procedure set up in Broken Arrow for dealing with found money. (under statute, Title 11, Section 34, 104 G)

Items that are found and turned into the Police Department are turned into the Property Room for safekeeping. According to State Statute 11 O.S. 34-104, all money or legal tender must be in the custody of the chief of police for at least ninety (90) days, the owner is unknown or has not been claimed, and or it is no longer needed to be held as evidence or connection with any litigation. Broken Arrow generally makes an Application for a "Chief's Sale" once a year, sometimes more or less frequent. Those monies or legal tenders eligible at that time are placed on the exhibits on the Application.

2. Why it's taken 2 years to return the $120 to Deanna Ewton.

The $120 Ms. Ewton is claiming was turned in to the Police Department on July 18, 2009. The last Chief's Sale Application Hearing was held in April of 2009 so we generally would not have started the next one until the Spring of 2010. However, in handling this current Application and in the checks and balances part, it has been sent back and forth a few more times than usual and extra items have been added on to the exhibit list. In addition, the City Attorney's Department has been handling quite a few high priority cases that have been taking up a lot of staff time. Things have had to be prioritized and unfortunately this kept getting pushed back.

3. Why this was handled through the City Attorney's office, rather than the police dept.

By statute, this does not have to be handled through the City Attorney's office and may be handled by the chief's office. However, due to the process of filing the Application in District Court, holding a Hearing, making proper notices, and other statutory requirements that must be met, it is the policy of the City of Broken Arrow for this matter to be handled through the City Attorney's office to ensure that it is accurately carried out and does not result in litigation from incorrectly destroying or releasing property.

4. Has something happened to the $120 that caused the delay?

Nothing has happened to the $120 that Ms. Ewton found and voluntarily turned over to the police department. It was securely stored in the Police Department's Property Room and remains there today.

5. Why wasn't the money returned within 2 months, as I was told by the City Attorney 2 and a half months ago?

Two and a half months ago we were in the final stages of approval with the chief of police and the captain over the property room and believed that the Application would be filed shortly thereafter. However, a few things needed to be double checked and the property room wished to add more items to the exhibit lists which delayed the process slightly. In addition, the City Attorney's office has been extremely busy with some very high priority and labor intensive cases which have caused a delay as this Application took lower priority to those cases.

6. What specifically does Miss Ewton need to do to claim the money and when?

Once the Application is filed, Ms. Ewton will receive a Notice of Hearing in the mail via USPS. It will state the date and time of the Hearing where she can make her claim to the $120 she found and voluntarily turned in to the police department. Once that Hearing is held and she has made her claim, the property room sergeant will be notified and Ms. Ewton will be able to go to the police department property room and receive the money she found. She will have to have proper identification to show at the property room.