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Jim Dawson takes money at the Weedsport interchange of the New York State Thruway. 

Jan. 13, 2004

WEEDSPORT — Thruway toll collectors: Empire State ambassadors?

Officials from the New York State Thruway Authority and Teamsters Local 72 think so.

Because of his unshakable faith in his staff, Teamsters Local 72 President Martin Latko was incensed when the website smokinggun.com — which posts police reports and legal documents — ran customer complaint forms filed with state officials about New York's toll collectors.

The complaints ranged from toll collectors being rude, threatening and swearing, to more bizarre behavior. One collector was accused of short-changing a driver while engrossed in his bongo drums. 

In another incident, a woman paid the toll collector for herself and her daughter following in the next car. The daughter, unaware of her mother's actions, paid the collector, who called her "sucker" as she drove away.

"For us to respond to that, just gives more fuel to the fire," Latko said. He called it "a crock of bologna." 

Statistics from the Thruway Authority are a testament to the toll collector's patience and friendliness.

In 2002, of the 415 million transactions, more than 120 million were cash transactions involving toll collectors.

"We might have a hundred complaints, give or take a few, a year. When you compare that to the transactions, it's rather insignificant," Thruway Authority Deputy Director of Operations Bill Rinaldi said.

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— Compiled by David Wilcox

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