Disabled veteran wins fight to drive UTV on Illinois highway

FOX Files

MASCOUTAH, Ill. – A dispute between a military veteran and Mascoutah Police all came down to one street – N. 6th Street. That street just so happens to be a state highway that runs in front of the town’s elementary school.

Afghanistan war veteran James Poggi works food service at the school. He lost his leg in the war and says he needs his utility terrain vehicle to get to work.

Police said he couldn’t do it, citing Illinois law that forbids all-terrain and utility terrain vehicles on state highways.

FOX 2 featured Poggi’s story on Oct. 8. Just over a month later, Poggi won a special accommodation.

“It’s a great victory. I definitely know I was within my rights (under the Americans with Disabilities Act),” he said.

Kenneth Flaxman, a civil rights attorney from Chicago, was just about to file a civil rights lawsuit. He said neither he nor Mascoutah’s city attorney found any precedence for this case. He said the case could have continued for years.

“…potentially going to the Supreme Court,” Flaxman said. “This is a very important issue about the ADA…Because of the publicity from FOX 2, the city saw its way to do the right thing.”

Flaxman and Poggi secured an agreement from the city that says in part, “In an effort to resolve the dispute, with neither party admitting fault, the City of Mascoutah agrees to exercise its discretion not to enforce any law which may tend to prohibit the operation of Poggi’s UTV on this section of the Road between his residence and Mascoutah Middle School.”

The agreement does not mean anyone can drive an ATV or UTV on N. 6th Street. It’s just for James Poggi—and only him—to go to and from work.

“I don’t drive it willy-nilly if the kids have a soccer game on 6th Street,” Poggi said. “I follow the rules just like everyone else has to.”

Poggi said he has no hard feelings about the matter. In fact, he wants to thank Mascoutah city officials.

“They were willing to listen with open ears,” he said.

Mascoutah Police Chief Waldrup said this was a good example of handling things the right way.

“It’s a pleasure to be able to use discretion to work out problems,” he said.

The chief said the initial disagreement was always about the law and public safety.

“Since I was able to get word from legal counsel that the city or the police department would not incur any liability had God forbid, he had an accident there on that road, once I had that assurance, then I was very happy to be able to reach an accommodation for him,” he said.

A fight that could’ve taken years took just weeks to resolve. Now Poggi says he can feel good about his unique approach to continuing his service to the community.

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