- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2007

Friends and political allies of D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and past city mayors owe the District $10,340 in parking fines, according to District records.

Residents given low-numbered tags by Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, have racked up $990 in fines since they were awarded the plates in March, according to an audit of the records by The Washington Times. Those given low-numbered plates by former mayors owe $9,350 in outstanding tickets.

Bernard Peter Demczuk, a former Cabinet member in the Democratic administrations of Sharon Pratt Kelly and Marion Barry, has the highest amount of unpaid fines, The Times learned late last week.

Mr. Demczuk yesterday owed $810 for 12 parking tickets received this year.

Steven Jumper, director of regional public policy for Washington Gas and the chairman of former Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ task force on Local, Small and Disadvantaged Business Development, had 11 tickets for $695 in fines associated with his plate.

However, minutes after The Times spoke this week with a Washington Gas spokeswoman, computer records showed all of the tickets had been paid.

Among the plates issued by Mr. Fenty, the one to Mital M. Gandhi, an advisory neighborhood commissioner, had $350 in fines for nine tickets in 2006 and 2007.

After Mr. Gandhi spoke with a reporter from The Times this week, the number of tickets decreased to four for $180.

The mayor and D.C. Council are allowed to distribute plate Nos. 1 through 1250 as political prizes. A complete list of the current council’s low tags was not available because not all members have assigned their plates.

Last year, The Times reported that low tags issued by the council carried more than $24,000 in unpaid parking fines.

Vehicles with low plates are like those with standard D.C. tags in that they can be disable or “booted” for accruing two or more 30-day-old, unpaid parking tickets. However, the process can be postponed if the driver contests a ticket, said Janis Hazel, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles.

“All District residents are equal under the law” and no special privileges should be afforded to drivers with low tags, Mr. Fenty said this week. “Regardless of license plate number, when someone receives a parking ticket or fine it should be paid in full in a timely manner.”

Some low tags still have fines from previous holders, meaning the tickets would not count toward the current driver’s boot total.

For example,a plate issued this year to Benjamin Soto, Mr. Fenty’s campaign treasurer and fraternity brother, has $460 in fines from parking violations between 2003 and 2005.

“I just got my tags two months ago, so that would’ve been the prior owner,” Mr. Soto said.

Miss Hazel said outstanding tickets remain the responsibility of the previous plate owner.

However, she acknowledged those connected to low tags are often challenges because the tags are re-issued.

Some low tags have tickets dating back a decade. But the tickets remain connected to whomever committed the infraction, so that driver cannot get a license or other changes at the DMV, Miss Hazel said.

Mr. Gandhi, also a member of the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, said some of his tickets were incurred before he received the tag. Records show three of the citations were from 2006.

ANC commissioners are also exempt from residential permit and parking-meter regulations when on official business. Mr. Gandhi said one of his tickets came while he was on official city business and that he planned to contest others.

The low-numbered plate is “to show my pride to be a District resident and, obviously, to be a part of D.C. and a new wave of the future,” Mr. Gandhi said.

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