- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2002

D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz yesterday said she will hold hearings next month on the District's overbilling of thousands of parking tickets, a problem she has known about for three years as the head of the public works committee.
Meanwhile, Sherryl Hobbs-Newman, director of the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, said the overbilling is likely to continue but that a new computer system will allow her agency to notify drivers about overpayments more quickly.
Mrs. Schwartz expressed outrage about overbilling after The Washington Times reported yesterday that DMV officials were seeking to reimburse $17.8 million wrongly collected for parking tickets during the past 20 years. The at-large Republican blamed the DMV.
"The response has always been, 'Just be patient and wait for Destiny,'" Mrs. Schwartz said of the new computer system.
"Well, Destiny is here, and we're getting more complaints than ever, from years-old parking tickets, which citizens can no longer prove they have paid, to longer lines."
Drivers overbilled from 1981 to 1999 must produce receipts.
Mrs. Schwartz said her committee will hold a hearing on the DMV's new computer system on June 11. Only the mayor, not council panels, can compel city agencies to change policies and practices, Mrs. Schwartz said, adding that she has spoken informally with Mayor Anthony A. Williams about the overbilling.
Mr. Williams was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Mrs. Hobbs-Newman said overbilling is common.
"For example, if I loan someone my car and they get a ticket and don't tell me, they might pay the ticket late on their own, but I will still get a late notice and might pay again," she said.
Waiting until the last day before a ticket goes into default often causes people to pay more than once, she said.
"What happens is, they pay on the last day and then soon after may try to renew their registration, but the payment hasn't transferred and the tags remain on hold," Mrs. Hobbs-Newman said. "People usually decide to pay the ticket again if their tags are going to run out the next day."
The DMV director said Destiny, implemented last month, will allow her agency to more quickly notify drivers of overpayments. She also said DMV, the D.C. Office of Finance and Treasury, and Affiliated Computer Services Inc. (ACS), the Dallas-based company that operates the city's parking meters, are working on a system that will allow their computers to share data.
"What we want is for the late notices and overbilling notices to be done automatically by computer," Mrs. Hobbs-Newman said.
"We adhere to the DMV's strict performance standards for payment processing, which requires all payments to be deposited within 24 hours and posted to the account within 48 hours of receipt," said ACS spokeswoman Janice Langley, adding that ACS regularly conducts audits to ensure it is complying with DMV standards.
DMV officials mailed notices to nearly 21,000 drivers who were overbilled since 1999 about their eligibility for reimbursements. So far, 11,500 have responded, but only 375 have been repaid. The average reimbursement is about $41, an agency spokeswoman said.
Drivers who have received notices need to prove only their identities and mailing addresses.
They should get back money within six to eight weeks.
The reimbursements do not include interest, even though the $17.8 million is drawing interest in the city's general fund.
Though DMV officials are seeking to reimburse drivers for millions of dollars in overpayments since 1981, it is not clear how long the effort will last.


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