Last year, a Plano, Texas, teenager found an envelope containing $2,000 in cash in the parking lot of a Dallas shopping center and dutifully turned it in. Now that the police and a nearby bank haven't been able to find the owner, she got a lesson in municipal government yesterday when the City of Dallas decided to keep it and not give it back to her.
"We appreciate your honesty," Dallas police spokesman Senior Cpl. Kevin Janse told 15-year-old Ashley Donaldson, according to local television station WFAA. "We're going to put the money to good use. It's not going to be wasted, but put to good use for the City of Dallas." Donaldson, who was living with her family of seven in a one-bedroom apartment when she found the money, is understandably bummed. "I was thinking about a car," she said.
Her dad, Ben Donaldson, said, "I'm happy that she did what she did, but the way it ended? I wish she didn't find it in the first place, because it certainly didn't teach her the right thing." But the Donaldsons's annoyance pales in comparison to the total strangers on Freerepublic.com. The reliably outraged conservative commenters there trotted out their best libertarian snark in honor of the classic government-versus-teenager news story. "They have what it takes to take what you have!," cracked Jack Hydrazine. "Probably a bribe from one pol to another, so it is really their money anyway," said going hot. Commenters were equally outraged back on the WFAA web site. Shortround 968 cuts straight to the chase: "The new phrase is "Finders should be keepers and Dallas you f'ing suck."
Update (2:55 p.m.): Dallas Mayor Dwaine Caraway sent a statement to the Dallas Observer. He said he's "very proud of [Donaldson] and very sympathetic as well," but he needs to review city policy before he can step in and hand the money back, as he's clearly itching to do (he said he was looking for "other options" to keeping the money). But he has to be careful: "[W]e also may have a situation where the amount of money is really large and could likely be drug money. Should that be handled the same way? Those are some of the things I think we need to know more about and understand."
Update 2 (5:45 p.m.): Now Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown says Donaldson might be able to keep the money, but only after another three-month wait. Texas state law says that someone who finds cash like this must give public notice and then wait 30 days for someone to claim it. If nobody does, there's another 90-day waiting period, and then Donaldson can finally get her car.