- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

For years, motorists accused the Barry and Kelly administrations, and Dave Clarke's D.C. Council, of using traffic tickets to raise revenue for the spendthrift District. Now they can add the current administration and council to the list.

In 1998, when Tony Williams was chief financial officer and Linda Cropp chairman of the council, the D.C. Auditor released a report that said officials had improperly collected more than $17.5 million in parking fines. Individual overpayments ranged from a low of $5 to a high of $310. The auditor, Deborah Nichols, explained how the overpayments occurred i.e., through errors by the city as well as its chief parking-ticket contractor since the early 1980s, Lockheed Martin IMS and she made several recommendations to fix the problem. Mrs. Nichols also recommended that motorists be reimbursed and made it ever-so-easy to begin to issue refunds by listing many of the tickets in question in her audit.

That was in March 1998. Motorists are still waiting for an apology or at least their refund checks. "What the citizens of the city expect me to do first and foremost is get the system working forward before I go back trying to spend millions of dollars to get them fixed going backward," the mayor this week told this newspaper's Guy Taylor, who, with reporter Brian DeBose, has been chronicling the longstanding problems with the city's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Good thing that they have the mayor on record.

According to Messrs. DeBose and Taylor, DMV is as slothful as it was in the 1990s. Back then, the city was issuing tickets so fast it couldn't keep up with its own records, hence the city was charging people twice for the same ticket. DMV's banner year was 1993, when it collected a record $60 million in traffic fines. But two short years later, traffic fines barely brought in $46 million and, although officials were aware of the overpayments, the city was broke, and officials didn't want to return the money.

While Mrs. Nichols' audit uncovered the wrongs and suggested how to make things right, all the aggrieved got were excuses. This despite the fact that then-City Administrator Camille Cates Barnett admitted that ticket-writing was driven by quotas. Now, DMV Director Sherryl Hobbs Newman is even trying to play ignorant, saying she needs a copy of the 1998 audit. Well, we Xeroxed a copy and sent it to her via Mr. DeBose and hope she makes good use of it.

The checks should have been mailed four long years ago. Mr. Williams, Mrs. Cropp, Public Works Chairman Carol Schwartz and then-Government Operations Chairman Kathy Patterson all ran for office in 1998 on a pledge of good government. It's time to remember those campaign promises.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide