BUFFALO, NY - Paul Cwiklinski was in a funeral procession On October 5, approaching the South Grand Island Bridge, when a Sheriff's escort lead the cortege through an EZ-Pass lane, en route to the White Haven Cemetery on Grand Island.
Cwiklinski, who does not have an EZ-Pass, recalls saying to his wife, "wow, we just got to go through the toll barrier without paying".
Or so he thought, until an envelope arrived in the mail three weeks later, from EZ-Pass, containing a notice of violation for going through that lane without a pass.
The violation notice stated that he owed one dollar for the toll plus a five dollar fine,...which would become a 25 dollar fine, if payment wasn't received in six days.
"I called the funeral home and they said just pay it, and we'll reimburse you. They were kind enough to do that," said Cwiklinski.
However, in his mind, that still did not make it right.
It's not so much the six dollars, it's the principal," he said.
Especially considering the decedent, Frank Brusino, a retired General of the New York Army National Guard, who was recognized for his more than 50 years of military service by President George W. Bush during a visit to Buffalo in 2004.
Cwiklinski first met Brusino when he served under him in a Green Beret unit in the late 1960's.
"I mean, if it were a politician, a county executive, a congressman or a state assemblyman, I'm sure they would have waived everything. It would have been taken care of," said Cwiklinski.
He called the EZ-Pass office in Albany, and within a few hours, got a call back from a manager, telling him the fine would be waived for him and about 50 other motorists in the procession who were flagged. All they would have to do was remit the one-dollar toll.
"What I thought was going to fall on deaf ears, was actually met with sincerity and they were nice to clear up the situation, and you don't usually get that within state government," said Cwiklinski, himself a retired state employee. "That's the way not just the state government, but any government should work. With the people, not against them."
Speaking of Brusino, Cwiklinski does not think his former commander would have ordered him to stand down either.
"He would stand for his troops no matter what, and I think it's time his troops stood for him, and I felt that's what I did," he said.
A situation like this almost never occurs, according to Amigone Funeral Homes, which handled the funeral arrangements.
Customarily when entering the Thruway, the procession is lead through a toll lane, with the lead funeral attendant paying for everyone in the procession. However, this time, the police escort went through the EZ-Pass lane, and seeking to keep everyone together, they followed.
The funeral home also confirmed for WGRZ-TV, that it stood ready to have paid any of the fines and tolls assessed the motorists in the procession.
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Terry Belke. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2