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Traffic violations are public record

Recently I received a citation for a traffic violation, my first in 20 years. I elected to attend traffic school and also paid a reduced fine. I was told that this procedure would erase my name from the police records and not reflect on my insurance.

Within the past three days I have received seven advertisements for driving schools. How did they get my name and address? I. Toelken

Response: Yours is a common misconception, said Kevin Deeley, manager of Traffic Court Records in south Pinellas County.

Under Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine Law, just about every government record is open to the press and the public, thus any information that the clerk of the court has is open to public scrutiny.

When a traffic citation is issued, Deeley said, the original and one copy are turned in to the clerk of the court. Another copy of the ticket is turned in to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Law enforcement retains one copy. The defendant, or the person receiving the citation, also gets a copy.

It is a simple matter for driving schools to comb public records for the names and addresses of people who might want to attend driving school, hence the flood of advertisements you received.

The election to attend defensive driving school means only that no points will be assessed against your license. The fact that you received the citation to begin with and chose to deal with it through driving school becomes a part of your DMV record.

There is a procedure in place to expunge records from public access. It involves petitioning the court and all other agencies who have copies of the information. Deeley said this request rarely comes up in traffic court.

With regards to the citation not affecting your insurance, Deeley said that is up to each individual insurance company. Neither the court nor DMV gets involved in insurance issues.

Cruise boat replaced

Can you tell me if the Captain Anderson boat that used to be berthed in South Pasadena will be back for the winter, taking us on lunch cruises, dinner cruises and the ever-popular Christmas carol cruise?

Now I see a paddle boat in his spot. Has the Captain sailed off into the sunset? Mr. and Mrs. James Orandash

Response: Not into the sunset, perhaps, but to Panama City. For good. The Times reported in June that, when the 135-foot yacht, the Lady Anderson, sailed for its summer home in Panama City in May, the decision had already been made not to bring it back.

Capt. Ken Anderson, the boat's owner, sold his South Pasadena dock and parking lot to his nephew, Phil Henderson Jr., who brought the 106-foot paddleboat you saw, the Starlite Princess, to fill the gap left by Lady Anderson. According to the Times story, other than the sloshing of the paddle wheel and sit-down, full-service dinners instead of a buffet, you should notice few other changes.

Charge for expertise

A few weeks ago I bought an elegant department store brand cassette player from its thrift/surplus store for $15. I quickly discovered that it also had a short wave band that didn't work and that one of the two speakers was inoperable.

The tone quality was superb, so I took the player to the regular department store for repair. At the customer service desk I was told that there was a $34.50 charge, which would be deducted from the repair cost.

I said that I could not possibly pay that sum, given that the player had cost only $15 to begin with, but that I was interested if it could be repaired fairly cheaply. I was told to leave it and that I would be called with an estimate. That seemed reasonable, so I walked away happy.

The ordeal began when, having heard nothing for 10 to 14 days, I called. It took several days and many calls with long delays, being put on interminable hold, and botched transfers, to be told that I owed them $34.50. "The hell I do," I said kindly, and tried to reach the store manager to retrieve my set.

I discovered that she cannot be reached. Ever resourceful, I found and called the out-of-state CEO of the store. Did I reach him? Ha! His assistant? Ha! Instead, my increasingly desperate phone calls were countered by taped messages that I owed them $34.50.

Since I have another life apart from dealing with these people, I let this foolishness cool for a week or so. Then, rested and relaxed, I determined to see if the local store manager really exists. She does! Her reply was that I owed $34.50.

For now, all I want is my set back, without short wave and speaker repair. Cavanaugh Murphy

Response: We're sorry we can't help you. Companies are entitled to charge for a technician's time and expertise. Most, in fact, do. This is true even if the set turns out to be unrepairable.

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, (800) 333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or voice mail; calls cannot be returned. We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. If your complaint concerns merchandise ordered by mail, we need copies of both sides of your canceled check.

We may require additional information or prefer to reply by mail; therefore, readers must provide a full mailing address, including ZIP code. Names of letter writers will not be omitted except in unusual circumstances. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

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