If you’ve ever gotten a parking ticket and don’t remember parking anywhere near the alleged infraction, read on.
Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux's office released a "public letter" Tuesday saying New Orleans handed out roughly 4,000 parking tickets last year with erroneous information on them, in most cases botching the license plate number.
That means anyone who found one of those 4,000 tickets on their windshield and failed to pay it was never held financially responsible. Instead, some innocent motorist whose license plate matched the number on the ticket was.
It’s possible some of their vehicles were even booted or towed, although the Inspector General's Office could not say in how any cases that may have occurred.
The city also handed out 3,000 tickets with incorrect administrative hearing dates, the IG's letter said. Some were years in the future. Others had already passed when the ticket was written.
And finally, Quatrevaux said, the city gave out 1,900 tickets to commercial trucks that are supposed to be exempt from penalties when they stop for short periods to make deliveries.
All of these faulty tickets could theoretically have cost taxpayers money, the letter notes. While the tickets may have been thrown out after drivers contested them at the city's Administrative Hearing Center, the IG's Office estimates that each dismissal would have cost $24.65 worth of labor on the part of the employees tasked with processing them, or $8.78 each for the tickets handed out to delivery trucks. That would add up to $190,000.
On top of that, no one would ultimately have been held responsible in the case of the 7,000 voided tickets with incorrect license plate numbers or hearing dates. That's a small fraction of the 350,000 tickets the city handed out last year, but the IG notes that even if they were all written for the minimum $30 fine, it would add up to $210,000 in lost revenue.
Having consulted with the city’s Department of Public Works and the company that processes tickets for the city, Duncan Solutions, the Inspector General's Office concluded that the loss was entirely preventable.
The letter notes that city officials and Duncan have already taken steps to correct the problems or plan to do so later this month at no extra charge to the city.
First, Duncan will void any tickets where the license plate doesn’t match the make and model on file with the state Division of Motor Vehicles. It then will provide the city with a regular report so that “error-prone employees can receive proper training.”
Second, the proper hearing dates will now come preloaded on the handheld devices used by parking enforcement officers to write tickets, so there’s no room for human error in that regard.
Finally, the contractor will automatically void tickets handed out to delivery trucks, and the city will give parking officers a list of trucks to watch out for as exempt.