Fwd: RE: Unethical City of West Hollywood Collection Practices

Rohit Khare (rohit@uci.edu)
Wed, 3 Feb 1999 14:16:44 -0800

I got a paper-mail response from the city acknowleding my mail, a phone
call from the meta-supervisor at the parking company, and this letter from
the director of parking at the City. I'm fairly satisfied.


>From: Vvittato@mailsrvr.ci.west-hollywood.ca.us
>To: rohit@fdr.ics.uci.edu
>Cc: Cmakinne@mailsrvr.ci.west-hollywood.ca.us,
> Jenglish@mailsrvr.ci.west-hollywood.ca.us,
> Vvittato@mailsrvr.ci.west-hollywood.ca.us
>Subject: RE: Unethical City of West Hollywood Collection Practices
>Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 11:42:29 -0800
>MIME-Version: 1.0
>Mr. Khare:
>As Parking Manager for the City of West Hollywood, I ask that you accept my
>apology, that of our City, and our contractor in the terrible way your case
>was handled. I assure you that I have already had your citation records
>corrected to accept the original check as payment in full, reversed the
>charges due to "stop payment" on the 2nd check, and waived any related
>delinquent fees. The matter is resolved.
>As a result, I have also instituted changes in the system to ensure that
>similar problems do not occur in the future. I agree with you that our
>contractor and our City should never have left the impression that we were
>unable to resolve this situation in your favor upon knowing all the facts.
>I have also asked the contractor to contact you relative to actions taken in
>resolving the case.
>I appreciate your bringing these concerns to our attention. We will work
>hard to review all our procedures to make them more responsive and
>Vit Vittatoe
>Parking Manager
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Rohit Khare [SMTP:rohit@fdr.ics.uci.edu]
>> Sent: Tuesday, January 05, 1999 6:11 PM
>> To: FoRK@xent.ics.uci.edu; ocletters@latimes.com; letters@laweekly.com;
>> letters@ocweekly.com; cmakinne@ci.west-hollywood.ca.us;
>> jenglish@ci.west-hollywood.ca.us; pvittato@ci.west-hollywood.ca.us
>> Cc: mxk1@cdc.gov; sarcilla@teamoneadv.com; arkhare@us.oracle.com
>> Subject: Unethical City of West Hollywood Collection Practices
>> To: "Rose" (Supervisor #85)
>> Unknown, Inc.
>> Box 2030
>> Tustin, CA 92781
>> Cc: Charlie Makinney - City Manager, West Hollywood
>> Joan English - Director, Department of Transportation, West
>> Hollywood
>> Penrose Vittatoe - Parking Manager, West Hollywood
>> Los Angeles Times
>> Los Angeles Weekly
>> Orange County Weekly
>> Re: Citation 19123974
>> The City of West Hollywood's secretive Tustin-based parking fine
>> contractor is engaged in an (at best) unethical collection practice:
>> it will cash any check sent in by any citizen for any reason -- and
>> even if a citation is already paid, apply service charges and
>> penalties for the duplicate payment to the original citation.
>> Driving a Maryland-registered vehicle, I was cited on 10/2/98 for $39.
>> I paid this promptly on 10/8, and the full amount was deposited into
>> the City of West Hollywood's Parking Fine Account on 10/14, closing
>> the matter.
>> The city's private contractor *then* mailed a notice that the citation
>> had not been paid to the vehicle owner in Maryland, who then promptly
>> wrote a check for the full amount again. A stop payment order from the
>> Maryland bank was applied -- at a cost of $20 -- because of this
>> erroneous notice.
>> By their own admission, they do not check the citation number written
>> on the check before blindly depositing it -- whether closed or open,
>> valid or canceled, paid by a legitimate vehicle owner or not. Since it
>> was returned because of a stop-payment order, they then blindly
>> applied a $25 fee to my original payment, then called it overdue and
>> doubled the amount, and then sent a notice demanding an additonal $66
>> for their unethical double-deposit.
>> Rather than admit any wrongdoing, the contractor cited their right
>> under the language printed on the original citation by "the City of
>> West Hollywood's lawyers" that they could apply a service charge to a
>> check returned for "any reason."
>> To the degree they can hide behind the language hidden on the citation
>> -- which they would not furnish a copy of -- it is City of West
>> Hollywood's lawyers who are ultimately responsible.
>> The contractor insisted this clause is standard practice with the many
>> cities it processes parking violations for.
>> Note that this process has no safeguards. If I see a neighbor's car
>> ticketed, I can keep sending in fraudulent checks, and the penalties
>> will pile up on the named citation. I can make up citation numbers and
>> mail in a hundred checks ruining others' reputations. The process
>> presumes guilt over innocence!
>> Furthermore, the unnamed contractor insisted that though it worked on
>> behalf of a public agency, they would not say who they were, nor who
>> their contact in the City of West Hollywood was, nor any public
>> official with oversight on the process. To quote:"Sorry, I can't tell
>> you that information because of a confidentiality agreement with the
>> City of West Hollywood." I find it hard to believe a public agency can
>> hide such information from its citizens.
>> For brevity's sake, I've elided the garden-variety customer abuse:
>> touch-tone gell from a company serving several California cities'
>> fines; insistence that I had bounced a check rather than stopping
>> payment; and clerk's inability to accept that the *first* check had
>> cashed and the *second* was returned. Nor an apology, much less a
>> prompt rectification of the matter. Instead, I am stuck sending in a
>> letter to beg for "Rose"'s mercy while responsiblity ping-pongs back
>> and forth between them and the City.
>> I am appalled to see civic government, hiding behind secretive
>> corporations and the state's power to ruin a driving/title record,
>> using the kind of Orwellian business practices that would leave a
>> citizen behind bars.
>> A private corporation, on the other hand, could be trusted to refund a
>> second payment, obviating the need for a stop payment in the first
>> place. Damages, including lost time and aggravation, only *begin* with
>> the out-of-pocket losses dealing with this bureaucracy.
>> Yours,
>> Rohit Khare
>> 3207 Palo Verde
>> Irvine, CA 92612
>> 626 806 7574