OGDEN -- A battle between a local auto shop and the health department was resolved in favor of the shop Monday in 2nd District Court.
Judge Ernie Jones ruled that a technician from Woodruff Auto Service, 3896 N. U.S. 89, did not switch cars to pass one of them on an emissions test.
"I'm just not persuaded that this was a case of fraud or that someone was trying to manipulate the system," Jones said.
Dave "Woody" Hanline and Weber-Morgan Health Department have been deadlocked on the issue for the last year and a half, ever since the health department sent Hanline a notice saying that his technician, Roger Keyes, had fraudulently substituted one car for another to get a clean test on a car that previously had failed the emissions test.
Hanline was told Woodruff Auto could suspend emissions testing for six months or pay a $7,500 fine.
After going through three health department appeals, Hanline decided to take the issue to court.
There is no way the second passed test was the same car, Brian Cowan, Weber-Morgan Health Department inspection and maintenance program manager, said at the hearing.
Certain data on the emissions testing machine was different between the two reports that could not have been different from just fixing the car, he said.
Ultimately, however, Jones said he was persuaded by Hanline's attorney, Joe Chambers, asking what the motive would be for Keyes to perform a fraudulent test or for Hanline to encourage it.
He said he also was not convinced the machines used for testing were foolproof.
"They (health department employees) are trying to catch people who are cheating, and I can see how they came to the conclusion they did," Jones said, but added the lack of apparent motive and possibility of computer error were what swayed his decision.
Keyes is a trusted employee, Hanline said, and an internal investigation showed no fraud on his part.
Chambers said Keyes had no reason to lie about his procedure when inspecting the car, as he had already served a suspension instead of fighting the health department.
The man who brought the car in, Stephen Niernberger, testified it was the same car.
Woodruff Auto, Hanline, Keyes and Niernberger all seem reputable with no reason to lie, Jones said.
Hanline said he is glad everything is over.
"We're not gloating over this. We just want to get back to our lives and work," he said.
He said he hopes his case helps other shops in Weber County.
Loretta Frecker, a Woodruff Auto employee, said she wants the decision to open dialogue between emissions testers and the health department so other test stations do not have to resort to going to court.