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Parking-Ticket Errors Costing City

Government: Audit raises red flag on mistakes, saying that more than $635,000 may have been lost.

April 03, 1999|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The city may have lost more than $635,000 because of mistakes on tickets written by parking control officers, according to an audit.

Los Angeles Controller Rick Tuttle recommended on Friday that the city Department of Transportation improve training of officers and that it respond more quickly to claims of flawed parking signs and meters.

Tuttle concluded that more than 8,749 tickets were dismissed between 1995 and 1997 due to faulty citations--including incomplete tickets--out of the 3.6 million issued. Tickets were sometimes not completely filled out by officers, contained the wrong make, license plate number or vehicle identification number for the cited car, noted the wrong citation, or were illegible, according to the audit.

In some cases, the flaws in tickets may not have been the officer's fault, such as when a license plate was illegally switched. In others, motorists may have failed to adequately display disabled-parking permits or other permits.

But Tuttle said a Transportation Department report found that a majority of faulty citations "could be attributable to parking officer errors."

Tuttle said the 8,749 dismissed tickets cost the city $399,300 in lost ticket revenue and $236,000 in administrative costs to process and investigate appeals of the flawed citations.

Thousands more faulty tickets appear to have been dismissed by Lockheed Martin Information Management Services, which has a contract with the Transportation Department to process many of the city parking citations, Tuttle said.

Lockheed dismissed 160,188 tickets for numerous reasons, including those not involving officer error. The value of those dismissed tickets was $7.8 million.

The Transportation Department, Tuttle concluded, needs to "develop comprehensive management quality-control procedures to ensure that the information on parking citations is completely and correctly entered by parking officers."

Frances Banerjee, general manager of the Transportation Department, said her agency has upgraded efforts to make sure parking officers write tickets correctly.

"We have an extensive training program," she said.

Banerjee said it was remarkable that only 1.2% of tickets might have had mistakes. "The big picture is it's a remarkably successful program," she said.

Many of the problems will be solved when the last of 550 parking officers is given a computerized, hand-held citation-writing machine that does not allow incomplete tickets to be printed, she said.

The audit also concluded that the Transportation Department took an average of 2 1/2 months to investigate appeals, despite a goal to finish the work in one month.

If a citation is faulty because a no-parking sign is missing or a meter is broken, the delay in investigating the issue could mean other faulty tickets are issued as well.

It costs the city $36 for every investigation of an appeal, and $20 for every administrative hearing.

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