Monday, March 22, 2010

Fighting City Hall

While the rest of the country was watching such inconsequential things as health care reform, I was preparing for my Major Legal Battle, which occurred this morning.

Last October, on the 1st to be exact, shortly after I moved in with my friend the cardiac nurse, I heard a strange sound as I was getting ready for work. When I peeked out the front window, I saw a City pickup truck that trailed the street sweeper, and the guy was writing a ticket and putting it under the windshield wiper of my car, which just happened to be the only one parked on the street at the time.

After I got dressed, I went outside and grabbed the ticket to see what it said.


Under "Remarks," it said: "SIGN POSTED AT BEGINNING OF BLOCK."

So I looked. To be honest, I hadn't noticed any street signs, but that didn't mean they weren't there. After all, I've been known to not see what was plainly in front of my face on other occasions.

There wasn't a sign at the beginning of the block. Or on any part of the block leading up to where I was parked.

In fact, the only sign on the entire block on either side was a dual-posting on a lamppost on the other side of the cul-de-sac, with the Neighborhood Watch sign on top.

I walked closer until I could read the sign, and it said, "No Parking Both Sides 6A.M. - 10A.M. 1st & 3rd Thursday, Street Sweeping."

That's just underhanded and wrong!

Mid-October I sent in a statement disputing the veracity of the ticket, since there was most definitely NOT a sign at the beginning of the street. I embedded the two photos above in my statement at the appropriate parts of my narrative, pointing out that no reasonable person could be expected to know about Street Sweeping Day with the way the signs were posted. And then I waited.

Three months later I received the decision from the city:

"Subject: Review Status- Review Outcome Liable... The appeal received for [your citation] was upheld for the following reason: STREET SWEEPING DATES AND TIMES POSTED ON STREET."

Not good! Apparently the City was saying that the posting of a sign across the street and at an unreadable distance is adequate notification that you can't park somewhere. The next step after that is Parking Tyranny: "You can't park here because I say you can't park here, so I'm writing you a ticket, and too bad for you!"

Not long after that, as I was heading for church, I saw that the City had put up a sign at the beginning of the block.

I felt cheated. If the signs were adequate on the day I got my ticket, to the point that they said I was liable for the fine, then why did the City feel the need to spend taxpayer money to put up a second but unnecessary sign? And if the sign on the cul-de-sac was not adequate, then why did they say I still owed the money? It just wasn't right.

I wasn't ready to give up the fight, so I filled out the form enclosed with my Review Status which was a "Request for Neutral Examination of Parking Citation," and I selected Personal Conference rather than a Written Declaration, since my previous written declaration didn't do me any good at all. About a month ago they sent me a notification that my Neutral Examination of Citation would be this morning at 10:00.

When I arrived as instructed, I was given a form that explained the process. It said I would have to make a plea, either (A) Admit with explanation or (B) Deny. But I wasn't sure what I was admitting or denying. Yes, my car was parked there, but no, I didn't think I should have to pay because the ticket had a falsehood on it about where the sign was.

I was taken into a conference room, and the reviewer said she was a neutral third party, not working for the City. She had a better explanation of what Admit and Deny meant, but I still couldn't decide which one applied to my case. While she was explaining how it would all work (it would be audio-recorded, parking is not a criminal offense, any evidence I presented would be considered as to how it supports my plea, and I would not be able to present more evidence once our conference ended), she showed me the City's evidence in support of their position against me.

The first was a photo of the new sign, like mine just above, only landscape mode and with some of the street showing to the left. The second was a hand-drawn layout of the street showing our house as being on the cul-de-sac directly facing the old sign.

One look at the City's photo told me what my plea would be. When the reviewer started recording and got to the part where I enter my plea, I said, "Deny liability."

She finished the preliminaries and then asked me to present my evidence. My opening statement was a passionate one. I pointed my finger at the City's photo and said, "THAT sign was not there when I got my ticket." And then I redrew the City's street layout to more accurately reflect where the house is situated relative to the old sign.

I had brought my original dispute statement with me, but she already had the one I mailed in, so I didn't need to show her those pictures. I also brought a couple others, including this cropped portion of the first picture. It shows a little better how there was no sign at the beginning of the street.

She seemed interested in this direction the evidence was taking, and it made me wish I had brought this picture with me as well (a better view of no sign when I got the ticket), but I didn't.

Then I showed her the photo I took this past Saturday, so she could see how the new sign is visible from roughly the same angle.

She marked the pictures as evidence item #1 and #2, while explaining to the cassette recorder which number represented which date. Then she said she'd look into the date when the City erected the new sign, and she should have a decision reached within a couple days. So by the end of the week, I ought to know if I get my $55 back (you have to pay the fine before they let you have a conference).

The minute she said she'd look into the timing of the new sign, I was filled with hope. Justice may yet prevail in this case.

1 comment:

Tsofah said...


My hopes and prayers are with you in that your case will prevail!

(and that you get your money back - smile)