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The following appeared September 5, 2005 in the

Boca may charge electric car owner for operating a ‘commercial vehicle’
By Dale M. King
Boca Raton News Staff Writer

ublished September 4, 2005

   Richard Newman has a gold-colored electric car in his driveway.

   But it’s not the car that’s sparked a controversy between him and the City of Boca Raton. It’s the Web site on the side of the car.

   Newman, a local philanthropist, long-time science buff, collector and owner of a vast collection of scientific artifacts, has posted a free, informational Web site called on the side of the one-seat, all-electric vehicle.

   City officials have a problem with that. In a letter to Newman, Code Enforcement Supervisor Ken Massalone cryptically comments that the car “might be deemed a commercial vehicle” because of the lettering.

   City code defines commercial lettering as “letters, numbers, symbols or combinations thereof, which advertise a trade, business, industry or other activity for profit, or a product, commodity or service.” The ordinance does not apply to bumper stickers.

   Newman has already emailed the city, saying the car “does not fit into any of the categories that Mr. Massalone has spelled out.” But the furor apparently continues.

   He says his Web site is strictly informational; it costs nothing to visit and anything there is available to anyone who wants to use it.

   “I talked to the city, and it appears they are going to fight me,” Newman told a Boca Raton News reporter as he sat in his home just outside Old Floresta. On a table next to him was a model of Robbie, the Robot from TV’s “Lost in Space” series.

   “I’ve been bombarded with phone calls and emails from people who say the city is way off base. I have tried to work this out amicably. Let the mayor come over and shake my hand, because I have made Boca famous for having the most famous car.”

   In his driveway is a 2000 Corbin Sparrow, a single-seat, three-wheel car powered by 13 12-volt batteries. Its normal cruising speed is 35 to 45 mph, but it tops out at 75 to 85.

   It’s more an electric motorcycle than a car, he said.

   California-based Corbin Motors made 355 of them between 2000 and 2002, he said. A year later, it went bankrupt. But Myers Motors resurrected the company in June 2004.

   Newman said he has the only two Corbin Sparrows on the East Coast. His other one is on display at the South Florida Science Museum.

   “There are a variety of remedies” for this situation, said Development Services Director Jorge Camejo. He said Newman could cover the lettering – or put the Web site on the bumper.

   Allowing Newman to have his Web site on the car “could potentially erode the protection” offered by the ordinance, Camejo said.

   Newman said he loans many of his collectables to schools and museums for educational purposes. “I have a display at West Boca Community High School,” he said. “There’s no charge. I loan it free of charge.”

   Newman does have a business that puts bread on the table. Nearly 30 years ago, he founded High-Tech Productions, a videotape and disc duplication company. He also distributes videotape, boxes and labels to government agencies, school systems, the military and police departments coast-to-coast. The business Web site is

   He said his electric car is a definite draw. One man who saw it was a retiring archeologist. “He saw my car – and donated a 400,000-piece fossil collection. My wife and I spent a year categorizing it.”

   Earlier in life, he spent 13 years organizing stage shows in the Catskills and worked with the likes of Milton Berle, Henny Youngman, Florence Henderson and Kathy Lee Gifford.

   But the car gets him more notice. “I can’t drive down the block without people honking their horns at me.” He said he puts the Web site on the side “to give information. I’m not selling anything.”

   Charles Cagney e-mailed the Boca Raton News to say that the city was “hassling” Newman.

   “HighTechScience has donated numerous science and technology centers around the country, mostly in low income areas,” Cagney said. “He has even opened one at an Indian reservation in Montana within a school that didn't even have any computers.

   “His organization arranged for them to receive a truckload of brand new computers (for free) and created a science center on the reservation.”

   “Mr. Newman has donated over a million dollars worth of his own money and tons of equipment to schools and should be commended for what he has done,” Cagney added. “Doesn't the city have more important things to do than to pick on an individual [who] has single-handedly done more for educating our youth than anyone else?”

   “In this time of outrageous gasoline prices,” Cagney added, “his electric vehicle should be a model for others. I wish I could find one instead of paying $3 per gallon for my car.”

   For more information about Newman’s electric vehicle and science centers visit

Because of the above and other articles, we have received many e-mails and letters from people that think that the city of Boca Raton is dead wrong and that the vehicle should NOT be classified as commercial. 

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