MANHATTAN BEACH (CBSLA) — A mother is speaking out after being fined $1,000 for taking her children to a park that was off-limits due to the coronavirus pandemic. She was later told she would have to pay the fine plus a $1,500 deposit to fight it.

Hawthorne resident Samantha Harte and her two young children were issued a citation on April 4 for being at Pollywog Park in Manhattan Beach.

“I actually started crying at the park because it was one of those moments where I was experiencing America in such a different way,” said Harte.

At the time, the park was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Police confirmed signs were posted at the time of the citation.

Harte said she knew the playground was off-limits because it was clearly roped off.

“To enter into the park there was no barricade that I snuck under or any rope that I climbed over,” said Harte.

She said there were two police cars parked on the grass, but the officers didn’t approach her for about a half-hour.

“They said we have been giving out warnings and people aren’t listening and we are now giving citations,” said Harte.

There was no dollar amount on the citation but weeks later, Harte received a letter in the mail from a private law firm on behalf of the city.

According to the letter, if she wanted to fight the ticket, she had to send in a written appeal as well as the $1,000 fine and a $1,500 deposit.

“The place where it becomes really difficult, regardless of what side of the issue you are on, is how during these times can anyone be asked to give such a large deposit just to voice, to a group of people, what happened that day,” Harte asked.

Manhattan Beach made national headlines last month for issuing a similar $1,000 ticket to a surfer who refused to leave the closed beach. Officers said he ignored multiple warnings.

Harte said she didn’t argue with officers, or resist the citation.

“In no way, shape, or form was I at that playground to grind my heels in and to make a statement,” said Harte.

A spokesperson for the Manhattan Beach Police Department said he was surprised to learn Harte was issued the full amount, but the decision is ultimately up to the City Attorney.

The office for the City Attorney did not immediately respond for comment.

Pollywog Park has since reopened.

  1. Will Yu says:

    I can imagine the helplessness when Ms. Harte’s being cornered with two young kids because I was cornered on the dog trail by two police cars rushing to me while was walking my Maltese (Vanilla) as usual. I was trying so hard to tell Officer Morales that I am a Manhattan Beach resident and walking on the dog trail and has no intention to disobey any social distancing ruling. However, the police were busy issuing citations and informed me to “complain to the Council because they want zero tolerance”. Contrary to the police confirmation, on April 4th (it happens to be my birthday), there was NO sign of park closing besides plastic tapes wrapping on trees. There was no verbal warning whatsoever. I had been working in municipalities for eight years, including being Deputy City Treasurer for the City of Torrance. I was so disappointed in the City of MB taking advantage of an unprecedented pandemic for making up some lost revenues. By the way, the CITY OF MANHATTAN BEACH DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY SERVICES ORDER NO. 2 was actually executed on April 8th, 2020; four days after the 129 citations were issued on April 4th. That is why there was no dollar amount on the April 4th citations. As a 24-year Manhattan Beach resident, I have no problem supporting our City in any legitimate manner. However, $1000 fine w/o warning and $1500 deposit for appeal is unheard of; especially it was at the beginning of the pandemic, the public was so confused and not ready for a robbery from a local agency. When getting my citation from Officer Morales, I said, “Congress is busying working out lifeline for the public, you are trying to making monetary gains.” What a miserable, insensible mentality for an affluent city.

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