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Friday, February 25, 2011

Challenged Parking Fines Won't Be Refunded

Challenged Parking Fines Won't Be Refunded 

Denver city officials say they will not refund at least $768,000 in parking tickets issued by unappointed parking enforcers, arguing that the two agents were authorized by city ordinance to write the tickets.

City attorneys say the Vehicle Control Agents in question were acting in their “official duties” as employees of the city, and therefore were authorized to write the estimated 30,700 parking tickets, despite not being appointed by the manager of safety and chief of police to do so.

“The Vehicle Control Agents in question had authority to issue parking citations as part of their official duties as employees of the City of Denver by ordinance,” read a statement from the City Attorney’s Office yesterday. 

City attorneys add that even if the agents were not authorized to issue the tickets, violators have little recourse to appeal what essentially equates to guilt by having paid the tickets.

“Additionally, after a citation is paid, each case is permanently closed and is not subject to reversal. Denver Public Works Right of Way Enforcement will adhere to this opinion and no refunds will be issued for the citations in question,” continued the statement from city attorneys.

The story was first reported this week by KCNC-TV Channel 4.

Vehicle Control Agents Paul Lucero and William Shirland were not officially appointed to write parking tickets. Parking enforcers in Denver are appointed to write citations by the manager of safety and the chief of police, according to public works. The appointment includes a background check and six weeks of training that includes how to “de-escalate confrontations” and field training. 

In Shirland’s case, he was up for re-appointment, a process that takes place every two years, yet he wrote more than 30,000 parking tickets between January 2009 and December 2010; in Lucero’s case, he was a new hire awaiting his appointment, yet he wrote nearly 700 tickets over nearly two months. Both agents have been assigned different roles with public works.

Denver City Ordinance Sec. 54-786 states, “Whenever any driver is found with a motor vehicle parked or stopped in violation of any of the restrictions imposed by this chapter, any police officer, or any employee of the city, or other person designated by the manager of safety to give such notices or summonses as a part of their official duties shall take the name, address and driver’s license number of the alleged violator and the registration number of the motor vehicle involved and shall issue in writing and serve upon the violator a notice or summons to respond to and answer charges against the violator within twenty (20) days at the parking magistrate’s office, or such other division or bureau of county court as may be designated by the chief judge or the rules of the court.”

City attorneys argue that it is a duty of employees of Denver Public Works Right of Way Enforcement to issue parking tickets. Whether they had the appointment or not, the two agents were employed in the Right of Way Enforcement division, and therefore were authorized by city ordinance in their “official duties” to write the tickets.

The appointment itself is only necessary because Vehicle Control Agents have special enforcement duties that go beyond that of a simple Right of Way Enforcement employee, argue city officials. 

As for the presumption of guilt based on payment of the parking ticket, defense attorneys tell the Denver Daily News that the case could technically be reopened if it can be proven that the original ticket was a nullity, meaning it should have never been issued in the first place. 

But city officials believe because the agents were acting in their “official duties,” it would be difficult for someone to argue that defense. City officials say they are prepared to fight any lawsuit, including a potential class-action lawsuit.

Meanwhile, public works is examining how it processes appointment renewals, as well as admitted “processing errors” that led to the confusion.

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