Stories from the street
Waiting a year...
Alessandra Nicole story
So, I *finally* got the money the city of Wilmington has owed me for more than a year.
Here’s the story:
- January, 2017 – I receive a red-light camera ticket for $110 – paid for it through J.P. Court
- February 25, 2019 – I went on the city’s website to pay for a couple of parking tickets and clicked the “pay all” button before realizing the city still had the 2017 citation still listed in its system.
- February – November, 2019 – I made multiple calls and trips to both J.P. Court and the City/County Building trying to get my $110 back – both sides pointed to the other, but it’s obvious this is a city issue
- November 4, 2019 – I emailed the city and received an email from City Finance Director Brett Taylor stating, “We can refund the payment. Let me get staff on the issue.”
- Rest of 2019 – crickets
- January 16, 2020 – I sent a third follow-up email to the city and received an email from Deputy Chief of Staff John Rago stating “We will report back to you today on this matter.”
- Rest of January – crickets
- February 7, 2020 – I received a call from the City of Wilmington to confirm my address, they told me they would be mailing a check for $110 and saying, “We were not aware of this issue and we apologize.”
- February 25, 2020 – I called to find out what was happening, they said they were surprised I hadn’t received anything yet and said they would look into it
- February 28, 2020 – I receive my check – issued on February 26, 2020 – it only took a year and three days – multiple visits, emails, and phone calls.
SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.
1. Why was the $110 ticket still in the city’s system almost two years after I had paid for it?
2. Are there others who have paid their tickets that the city still mistakenly has in its system?
3. Why did it take more than a year to straighten out what should have been a very easy fix?
4. How many other people have hit this wall of bureaucracy and just given up?
5. Why would we face late fees of $20 if we take more than 20 days to pay a fine, and $60 if we take more than 90 days, but the city can take more than a year to repay money without any penalty at all?
Let's blame the victim for our lack of common sense...
Stephany Pachowka story
Fewer than 1% of cases
This chart is based on information obtained through FOIA requests with the City of Wilmington and information provided by the Courts.
Keep in mind the Office of Civil Appeals is NOT a part of the judicial branch and appears to operate without standards or accountability.
When anyone in authority asks the City about the Office of Civil Appeals, the City now claims it is simply an administrative procedure designed to streamline issues and prevent J.P. Court from being overwhelmed. BUT, when a driver is appealing a ticket, they are not told this is an “administrative procedure” – they are led to believe that they are in the middle of a legal proceeding and if they are told that the appeal is denied, then there is nothing else they can do.
It may be worth noting that when I spoke with the magistrate at J.P. Court in 2019, he was unaware of the Office of Civil Appeals and was working under the assumption that drivers appearing before him were at the very beginning of their appeals process.
Appeals granted (by Office of Civil Appeals)
Appeals denied (by office of civil appeals)
Appealed to J.P. Court
Percentage of cases appealed to J.P. Court
Never going to write...
I got a ticket in April 2016. I immediately wrote an appeal. I never received the written decision even though the parking division claims that it was mailed.
The ticket is paid, but I still want my written decision. I've been calling, writing letters, and emailing since April. No luck. I'm not ready to give up. Can anyone help? I can't be the only one and I'm sure most people just let it go.
Two tickets = car towed and scrapped
Ameera Shaheed says she has lived in the same home in Wilmington for 12 years without any problems with parking tickets. In early September, 2019, a PREO got into an argument with her (she said the PREO told her she had to move her car that had been parked in the same spot for a few days, she told him that she simply had not gone out).
After that, she says she started receiving a parking ticket each day for the next two weeks. The city says it only issued four parking tickets to her.
She appealed the tickets, but then received a notice that her vehicle was in danger of being towed because of the excessive fines. Please note – by appealing the tickets, all collection efforts are supposed to be put on hold.
Then her car was towed and scrapped.
The city dropped all but two of the parking tickets.
What P.O. Box?
Experience of a Wilmington business owner
The experience of a Wilmington business owner:
In February 2019, this driver reached out to AAA – AAA contacted officials in the City of Wilmington in an attempt to resolve this issue.
On March 4, 2019, the driver received a voicemail simply stating that the appeal was successful.
As of the writing of this report, this driver has not received anything in writing nor has the driver or AAA received any explanation about the false information provided by phone.
Higher tickets, more booting, more towing - Wilmington is #1!
Comparing Wilmington to other cities, AAA finds the following:
Parking Tickets issued 2018
Parking tickets as population percentage
Tows in 2018
Boots in 2018
Tows and Boots as population percentage
New Britain, CT
Less than 100
Arlington Heights, Ill
Santa Barbara, CA
A "gift" - or "Let's make a deal"
Nadine Frost experience
The 404 day appeal process
Susan Feely gets to hear all the excuses
email from July, 2016:
I was erroneously issued in Wilmington on June 11, 2015. I filed an appeal timely and then never heard anything further. I have left messages at the Appeals office for the past few months, trying to get my day in court, and could not get a return phone call. Finally walked into the office on June 16, 2016, more than a year after the ticket was issued, and spoke to Jennifer Prado. She looked into it and called me with the results of her investigation. Many excuses as to why my appeal, filed in September, has still not been scheduled for a court date. I then called JP Court 20 and spoke to a woman there who told me that all appeals sent to them had been scheduled. They had not received my appeal yet. I called Jennifer back and left her a message. She did not return my call. I called the Appeals office again on Tuesday and I don't expect to get a return call. I just don't want them to think I have forgotten about my ticket.
update email from August 4, 2016:
I was back at the Office of Civil Appeals this afternoon trying to get a court date scheduled for my ticket appeal with no luck. As a reminder, I was erroneously ticketed on June 11, 2015 and filed a civil appeal on September 10, 2015. I began to follow-up on this in January and have really focused on it since June. You wouldn’t believe the run around I am getting. Jill and Jennifer in that office said they will have Courtney Dixon call me tomorrow but I am not holding my breath.
update email from September 27, 2016:
I was correct when I assumed Courtney would not call me as Jill Morrison and Jennifer Prado in her office assured me she would.
Today, I received a notice from the Department of Finance stating that I have "failed to respond" to the referenced parking ticket. I literally laughed out loud when I read that. It confirms my suspicion that the women I spoke to in the office, Jill and Jennifer, either did not know how to find the information I was requesting or they were outright lying. I asked several time during my last visit to their office where my ticket was in the process. When would it be scheduled for a hearing in front of the JP? They could only tell me it was "in the pipeline" and that I had to wait to hear from the Court. The fact that they were either unwilling or unable to look it up and give me a truthful response was telling. When I received this letter yesterday it confirmed that not only are the individuals working in that office incompetent, they are lacking in veracity.
update from Oct. 31, 2016:
Yes, my ticket has now been dismissed. I spoke at length to Courteney Dixon, who is the individual in charge of this process, on September 28, 2016. She finally called me after I had been requesting she do so for months and months. She told me that my ticket was one that was to be dismissed because her predecessor did not respond to my initial appeal in a timely manner. I really don’t believe that. It would have been resolved a year ago if that had been the case. I find it hard to believe that they are so incompetent, and their computers so outdated, that they could do have run a query and found my ticket among any others in a similar situation.
Courteney phoned me in response to a message I had left her the previous day, on September 27th. I had finally been able to find her name in the city of Wilmington directory. I had repeatedly tried to find her number previously, but had been unable. However, on September 27th, after a bit of research on social media, I found that her first name is spelled in an unorthodox way. I was then able to find her in the Wilmington City directory and get right into her voicemail. When I had visited the Office of Civil Appeals in June and spoken to Jennifer Prado, and when I was in the office in August and had spoken to both Jennifer Prado and Jill Morrison, I had asked for Courteney’s phone number, however they both refused to give it to me. They told me that they would have Courteney call me back the next day. Of course, that never happened. So, on September 28th, when I finally spoke to Courteney, I told her that I had been promised a phone call from her months before, that I had been assured by Jill that she would call me. Courteney contends she never received any message or information that I had been in the office regarding this issue. Considering how that office seems to function, I am not sure whether I should believe her or not. On one hand, I believe the office is mismanaged and that my concerns were not taken seriously. On the other hand, I find it hard to believe that neither Jennifer or Jill would have advised her regarding my conversation with them, especially because of the content and manner in which our conversation took place. Also, I found out Jill Morrison is her supervisor. Interesting that she had not mention that to me. At least one person is not being truthful, maybe all of them. Jill was one of the individuals with whom I spoke on August 4th, when I went into the office, and she and Jennifer both advised me that they could not access the ticket database and that Courteney was the only one that could do so. Now that I know Jill is her supervisor, I find it highly unlikely that she could not access the database which would have shown that my appeal was in no-man’s-land. If it is true, it is more evidence of incompetent management practices. In what offices does only one individual have access to important data? I also find it unlikely that Jill did not tell Courteney to look into the status of my ticket, if only to make sure I got on the JP Court’s docket so that I would not visit their office again. Conversely, I can’t imagine Courteney would not have researched and resolved this if she had been told how adamant I was that this be resolved, if just to get me to go away. It is very difficult to ascertain who, if anyone, has been honest throughout this ordeal, besides me. I had nothing to gain by insisting my ticket be addressed however I was the only one that seemed to be concerned that it had been left unresolved.
Bottom line, there is a lot of CYA going on in that office. Resolving valid inquiries seems to be of no concern. Courteney said she is trying to clean up multiple issues left by her predecessor however that doesn’t excuse the issue I have had and the time I have spent trying to have it resolved. Also, her predecessor has been gone for months. It should not take that long. Lots of excuses.
One interesting thing. I did mention I had signed onto the FOIA request because of the mismanagement of my ticket. She said, “Believe me, we are aware of the FOIA request.”
I also heard from David Sophrin. I wonder what part his interest had in getting this issue resolved. I will forward the email he sent me to you. It does not really address why this ticket was not responded to, nor does it address the treatment I received from the Office of Appeals, from their incompetence to their dishonesty. I understand he works in the outgoing administration and so I put it down to that. I do have several suggestions as to how to improve the Office of Civil Appeals but am not convinced it is worth my time to put them in writing. I have spent so much time on this already, I don’t want to waste time making suggestions to an individual who will no longer be in a position to implement them in a couple of months.
Thank you for your help getting this resolved. It might still be outstanding without your assistance.
I have to say that the most troubling thing about this whole situation is not the error made when I was erroneously ticketed, but the disrespectful way I have been treated since that time. It is also quite disturbing to know that the initial appeal is not really taken seriously in the office, and that there is no documentation to support the tickets that are being written. If my initial appeal had been taken seriously, and documentation had been reviewed, my ticket would have been dismissed after that appeal. I absolutely had not violated the 2 hour time limit and that would have been obvious. I am very interested to find out how an appeal is actually handled in that office.
I have received a letter from the City advising my ticked has been dismissed for the reason stated above. I don’t believe the reason given, everything I was told in that office in the last year has been untrue. Veracity and competence are sorely lacking.
Articles, podcasts, broadcast reports, and more...
Posted Sept. 17, 2019
A local realtor has blown Wilmington's parking problems wide open in her more than year-long quest to appeal a single parking ticket she claims she received in error.
from The News Journal
posted July 5, 2016
Concerns over Wilmington's parking tickets have come a long way since 2012, when a series of changes — from discounts for early payment to improved training for parking enforcement officers — took effect largely due to citizen efforts. Now another call is going out to address issues with the appeals process, but the activist leading the charge says it's about more than just tickets.
Some time on the Rick Jensen Show
Posted June 21, 2016
From the description of the Rick Jensen Show:
"Rick is ranked as one the "100 Most Influential talk show hosts in America" and rarely mispronounces his own name."
On June 21, just an hour or so after filing the Freedom of Information Act request with the city of Wilmington, Rick had me on his show to talk about the issue.
from Technical.ly Delaware
Posted June 21, 2016
Back in 2011 and 2012, a group of citizens in Wilmington engaged with the city to improve the policies and practices regarding parking tickets - see WilmingtonParking.blogspot.com for more on that success.
It appears there's now a situation with the appeals process for parking tickets in Wilmington. We're ready to step up and do our part to help the city of Wilmington by analyzing data and reviewing policies and practices to find ways to streamline the process and make the system run more efficiently for everyone.