City Screw-Up Costs Darrell A Day’s Pay
When Darrell Greene walked out the door to go work, he found out his SUV had been booted — for tickets he paid a month ago.
Greene was the latest victim of a city screw-up in its effort to seize or immobilize cars for overdue tickets or taxes. In June, eight people had their cars erroneously towed for taxes they didn’t owe.
Greene woke up Tuesday morning at his home on Beaver Hill’s Diamond Street. He got ready to head to the Hospital of St. Raphael, where he works in the psych ward. When he stepped outside at a quarter to 6, he saw something slapped on the window of his Ford Expedition.
“I walk out the door, I see the big orange sticker with the boot,” he said. The city’s new VioAlert wheel immobilizer was clamped to his wheel. A note detailed the charges: $360 in unpaid parking tickets. With towing and booting fees added on, the fines totaled $465.
Greene fumed. He didn’t owe any tickets on his car. He had paid them a month ago, on June 17.
“I got pretty hot,” said Greene, standing outside his home Tuesday afternoon. “I had to call out” from work and miss a day’s pay, he said.
He called his friend, Dixwell Alderman Greg Morehead. The two marched down to City Hall to see what the problem was.
Lesson: Keep Receipts
Greene brought the ticket and receipts showing he had paid $390 in outstanding tickets back on June 17. Staff at the traffic and parking department took a look. They checked their records and realized he was not a ticket scofflaw after all. Staff had apparently not updated the system at 1 a.m. when his car was booted.
“How is it not updated?” Greene said in disbelief. A month should be plenty of time to update a system, he reckoned. “You shouldn’t do that to people.”
“Good thing I keep my receipts,” Greene grumbled.
By the morning, the system had been updated. City staff made a phone call and told him, at about 10:15 a.m., “It should be off by now.” VioAlert, the company the city hired to perform the booting, had been alerted of the error. It had taken the boot off.
On his way back to home, Greene boiled over the screw-up that had lost him a day’s wages and caused him a giant headache trying to navigate City Hall bureaucracy.
The most frustrating thing, Greene said, was an attitude of indifference by parking staff. “They just said, ‘Oh, OK, it’s off now. You can go pick up your car.’”
Morehead joined his outrage as the two left City Hall Tuesday.
“It’s a major glitch in the system somewhere,” said Morehead. “This is just crazy. This is the third time they’ve been in the paper for something. Something has to be done.”
Greene did find his car, freed from the boot, when he returned home.
Reached later, the city’s transportation chief, Mike Piscitelli, acknowledged the error.
“As I understand it, the vehicle was booted last night in error and the release was authorized first thing this morning to correct the error,” Piscitelli wrote in an email.
“The Tax Collector’s Office is checking with VioAlert to see how the error occurred,” he wrote. “It may have been a file download error, but I am not sure.”
Previous coverage of New Haven’s towing and marshal industries:
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Posted by: James | July 15, 2008 4:30 PM
Darrell, I feel for you in a way. I had my car towed for taxes I hadn't paid on a vehicle I didn't own. It's a pain. But I can't help but think that this wouldn't have happened at all if you hadn't racked up $360+ in parking tickets. UNPAID parking tickets. I'm really rather fed up with people in this town who break the law and then complain with the way it is enforced. Yes, you paid your tickets, eventually. Yes, the City screwed up. But I don't think you're going to get a lot of sympathy out of this one.
Posted by: walt bradley | July 15, 2008 4:58 PM
Darrell, I have sympathy for you brother, you did not deserve this, and you should be compensated.
YOu paid your fines for your transgressions, now the city should do the same. I wish i was perfect like James is, i look forward to reading of your interactions when YOU get a taste of the city's towing disaster.
Posted by: cedarhillresident | July 15, 2008 5:46 PM
My daughter called town hall to find out if she owed any taxes and how much she was told she was fine and that the new bill would be coming in for this year. I had called and went on line back when the kimber thing happened and they (both my kids cars) where both up to date. BUT she got booted and had to pay the fine to get the boot off. I have not had the time to follow up on it but I plan on it. So I can get her money back!
Posted by: James | July 15, 2008 7:29 PM
Walt, as I mentioned in my post, I DID have my car towed. But I didn't call my alderman and get an article posted in the paper about it. My point is that somebody who racked up that large of a fine in parking tickets isn't exactly playing by the rules in the first place.
Posted by: TrueBlueCT | July 15, 2008 8:46 PM
If the City is going to step up enforcement and collection, (a policy I agree with), they need to do better, much better with customer relations.
Yesterday I paid both a parking ticket, and a car tax bill in person. The ladies at 200 Orange collecting the ticket monies get an "A-". They were cool and professional, even if there were many irate New Haveners in the office.
As part of the process I had to visit Traffic & Parking. Grade of "B". I had filed a contestment of a $100 ticket, (snow towing), and the next thing I get in the mail was a request for $300! I tried to explain that I live in a high-rise building, and that they don't deliver without an apartment number, which the City had omitted. Anyway, the desk person said to pay the original $100 penalty, but that the $200 in penalties "should" be waived. I was then warned that it was incumbent on me to call and verify that this actually happened. Which I will do.
Then I went to the Tax Collector's office in City Hall. Grade "D-". Honestly, I know July is the busiest month for them, but the attitude coming back across the counter, from the entire staff, was unacceptable and created an atmosphere of hostility. Is it too much to expect politeness (and professionalism) from those folks collecting our taxes.
That's just my two cents. I know these are tough jobs, and I was surprised to learn the tax collectors were there until 10pm! Maybe that's why they were so grumbly. (less to me, and more towards 5 or 6 other transactions I witnessed.)
Posted by: TrueBlueCT | July 15, 2008 8:49 PM
PS-- Is there a reason why the parking ticket database isn't just put online? It'd be great to be able to run my own plate, in order to make sure the ticket I paid says paid.
And in terms of people's privacy, -- if your neighbor, wife, co-worker, etc, could see your outstanding parking tickets, -- maybe we wouldn't need the bootfinder and so much towing!
Posted by: doug | July 15, 2008 9:47 PM
Mr. Greene should be reimbursed his day's pay. The city is responsible for it, and has admitted as much. If I did my job that way I'd be fired. People NEED to be fired in that department.
Exactly Doug, who is getting fired. I have seen people fired for much less. What happened to accountability? You can't tell me the ENTIRE department is made up of baby boomers. Then, maybe I would believe accountability isn't an issue (since they don't believe in it and all).
Posted by: JP | July 15, 2008 11:45 PM
in fact you can go online and see if you owe tickets.
Who cares about this guy $360 is around 18 parking tickets that went unpaid for how long. I get a ticket every now and then but i always mail it in the next day. you can even pay online now. Clearly this guy never puts money in the meter and then pays the tickets when he gets around to it. I have no sympathy. He's whats wrong with the people in this city.
Posted by: Artur | July 16, 2008 9:24 AM
James, Just because You didn't call and complained about your car being towed wrongly , dose not mean that everyone should falow the same logic. This issues need to be brought to the light of day and people ( residents ) need to know them. When residents know this type of mix ups they at least will know that they need to think hard next time when election comes around. We have to much coruption and lazy people working in goverment type of jobs. I work for Honeywell ( i hate then but it pays the bills ) and people get fired for not performing their job , just because they show up and worm up that chair , that's not their job.
It pisses me off to see how burocratic and conviluted the system is and how it's againts the residents of the city.
In England ( grait Britain) there is a guy that cut's off this type of boots of people cars for a small fee , and belive it or not , it's not againts the law for him to do that. People still pay their tickets or what ever the reason the boot was installed , but it's hard to get to town hall on foot :) .
I don't live in the city , but i'll will be buying a bolt cuter , casue i don't want to smucks mistake ruin my day. BTW only tickets i get are on High Ways anyway. I pay that $5 for 1h of parking , cause it saves me from to worrie if my car still be there or booted .
Posted by: king james V | July 16, 2008 9:30 AM
James & tru blue, the man paid his tickets - botom line. His mistakes cost him money, and he made the appropriate payment. The city of new haven then made a mistake, and gave no apology and did not make an appropritate payment for it's mistakes. The City is the bottom line bad gujy here. And, why not call upon your local elected official when the city he or she is directly involved with governing is doing sonmething wrong. would you have him call his mailman or cable guy instead?
Destefano's arrogance has trickeled down to EVERY department. A sincere "i'm sorry about your troubles, we'll try our best to fix this" goes a long long way.
Posted by: JP | July 16, 2008 10:28 AM
King James V, Where is this guys apology to me for stealing money out of my pocket by not feeding the meter. $60 in tickets I can understand but come on $360.
That points to a habitual problem where he routinely disregards the law. It's the same as walking into my house and steeling my DVDs. Blame Jonnie all you want for the 9% tax hike but without strict enforcement people like this would continue to take advantage of the law abiding citizens and in any new system mistakes will be made.
Posted by: walt bradley | July 16, 2008 3:47 PM
Yeah JP! thank you for standing up for all of us! i say we send him up to Sommers for five years and break his thumbs. Next thing you know, Darrel will be stealing bread from my baby's mouth, using my garden hose to wash is fancy outlaw car and smuggling in illegals to take my job.
Seriously though my man, your take is a wee extreme. People "like this" (do you mean black people or people who don't rush out to pay a parking ticket?), people who get a ticket, and pay them off albiet late, are taking nothing from you, and certianly not stealing your dvd's (i'm sure Darrel doesn't want your prized copies of "Caddy shack II", "Rocky III" or "Brokeback Mountain") I appreciate your passion and loyalty to king John though, even though i have much different loyalties and ideals. Hopefully he'll show his appreciation next time you get towed.
Posted by: Brian | July 16, 2008 4:15 PM
Where can I go online to see if I owe any tickets? I couldn't find it anywhere on the city's web page, the only thing I could find was if I already had a ticket I could pay it online.
Posted by: James | July 16, 2008 5:42 PM
Oh, come now, Walt. $360 in unpaid parking tickets is not "late." That's a scofflaw. And yes, his situation stinks. But being wronged by the city does not obviate the fact that this is someone who clearly doesn't play by the rules. And while I won't go so far as to equate it to breaking and entering, it is, indeed, symptomatic of the disrespect for the general rule of law and wellbeing of others that is helping wash this city right into the crapper.
So to park wherever you feel is convenient knowing full well that you are parking illegally, letting the tickets pile up, and then run crying to your alder when the city messes up seems a bit disingenuous to me. If Darnell is so worried about a day's pay, maybe he shouldn't be racking up $360 in parking tickets.
Posted by: JP | July 16, 2008 6:19 PM
Walt Bradley, I dont know how you got black people out of that but by people like this i meant people who park and never even think about putting a quarter in the meter and yea i realize your kidding but after 30 or 40 tickets in a month a night in jail might not be a bad idea. He can have Caddy Shack II just leave Animal House alone.
Posted by: dan fish | July 17, 2008 2:07 AM
The few fellas (mr's jp, james and just a bit of trueblue, you guys are soooooo far off you make me sick.
you are all obviously white, have your own off stret parking, and i suspect, work for the city. The big fat fact you are choosing to ignore is that when the city of new haven makes a mistake, it refused to acknowledge such. parking tickets, the big chapel st. fire, city schools test scores, the never ending tax increases, the shoddy treatment of our AMERICAN homeless, the conditions of our public streets, spending way too much on shcool buildings and not enough on what goes on inside. it's a pattern of destruction followed by denial and YES YES YES it starts and ends with the Honorable Mayor John Destefano. Open your damned eyes, the rest of us have.
Posted by: James | July 17, 2008 9:13 AM
Dan, I'm not sure how you (and Walt) have managed to bring race into this. Was Darnell forced to park illegally because he's black? Or maybe his car was racially profiled? Look, you're so full of righteous indignation that you're not bothering to read - you're just going off on some BS tangent. I dislike DeStafano and the City government immensely. If you read my comments on other stories, you'd see that. I am far from a standard bearer for the incompetent city government.
My point is simple. Lots of us manage to get along in New Haven without racking up $360 in parking tickets. I don't work for the city, and I don't have off-street parking. But I park legally and when I get a ticket I pay it. I don't wait until I have $360 in tickets and am faced with the boot.
So tell me Dan, how can somebody, in the case Darnell, decide that he does not need to park legally, likely depriving others of the chance to park, and then turn around and complain that the City isn't playing fair?
There are two stories here, not one. The first one is that New Haven city employees are frequently rude and less than competent and departments are run poorly. STOP THE PRESSES. Yeah, most of us know this. The city sucks on many, many levels and getting rid of Johnny would be a heck of a good first step. But the SECOND story is about Darnell. And I am being asked to feel bad for Darnell, poor Darnell who lost a day's pay. Poor Darnell who was singled out by the city for personal attack. Please. We all live in this city and we're all constantly screwed by the City. Feel pissed off about it? Take a number.
But people like Darnell who ignore the basic rules that allow us to function as a society and then cry when society fails them are a big part of the problem with this city. You want to make things better? Start with yourself. Don't run red lights. Don't speed through school zones. Don't take up a parking space that you don't intend to pay for. Don't throw trash in the streets. Pay your taxes. Be a decent citizen. Take some f'ing responsibility for the quality of your surroundings. But don't refuse to pull your weight and then come crying to me when things don't work out for you. Don't tell me that it's OK for you to break the rules that we all have to live by but when the City does it it's an outrage that should be splashed across the front page of the local paper.
So tell me, Dan Fish, where am I "soooo" far off? I'm not defending the City. Screw the City. But how am I off base by not giving a damn for Darnell's sob story? There are a lot of other injustices in this city, a few of which you yourself mentioned. Why are we talking about a scofflaw who doesn't care if you can't find street parking as long as he's covered?
PS. I don't know Darnell and I don't know his situation. I guess that there could be a legitimate reason for racking up $360 in parking tickets. My only point is that people in this city are so damned quick to play the victim but rarely give any thought to their responsibilities as a citizen.
PPS. Dan Fish, what if I were to say, "You're obviously black." That's pretty damned offensive, isn't it?
Posted by: JP | July 17, 2008 9:31 AM
I am White (not sure why that matters) but I park on the street downtown at meters everynight. I have no off street parking. I dont work for the city i dont even work in the city and trust me the chapel street fire affected me more then almost anyone. I do like Destefano but i think the school contruction program is a mistake. Taxes are always going to be a problem as long as 60% of the city is tax exempt. None of this changes the fact that when this guy steels time at the meter I have to cover the bill with my taxes or the fact that when any institution develops a new program like this there are going to be problems. All this guy had to do was take a cab to work and call the traffic and parking department. Its his fault he took a day off and on top off that if you can afford the gas in that Ford Expedition your not going hungry.
Posted by: What I know | July 17, 2008 11:50 AM
Darrell works at St Raphael's where they have two garages and surface lots where employees can pay to park. When they don't want to pay and would rather try to beat the system, they park on the streets and take their chances. They rack up hunreds in tickets until they know they are at the point where they'll get "the boot". Then they pay them off and start the cycle all over again. I know. I work with dozens of them. It's easier to pay my monthly fee and know my car is secure and I won't live in fear of getting tickets or have to keep leaving my job to feed the meter and leave my co-workers to pick up my slack. Darrell should just sign up for the Parking at HSR. At the end of the day he'll have peace of mind and probably be saving money when it's all added up.
Posted by: TrueBlueCT | July 17, 2008 12:51 PM
Hey, don't lump me in with the more righteous commentors, please.
I'm on Darrell's side. I mean heck, a single $100 ticket, (which I still don't believe I deserved), suddenly tripled up to $300, and presto, bango, I was probably on the "boot list" too.
Anyway, it's good that the City is pushing to collect every last dollar. We need to!
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