By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
New York City Comptroller John C. Liu said Thursday that an audit of the City Department of Finance’s (DOF) collection of parking tickets discovered that the agency has failed to go after millions of dollars in fines owed by companies with delivery fleets.
DOF gives these big companies discounts on their tickets via the Commercial Fleet Program – a program not available to individuals and small companies.
Hundreds of companies -- including Fed-Ex, UPS, Verizon, Midtown Express, Frito-Lay, and Anheuser-Bush – haven’t been paying their fines and owe the city $9.3 million in tickets, according to Liu’s audit.
“It’s bad enough that people feel like they’re constantly blitzed with parking tickets,” Liu said in a statement. “It’s absolutely galling to now find that the City lets big companies off the hook on millions in parking tickets. At the minimum, the City should be as efficient collecting money from big companies as it is from residents and small business owners, who apparently never get a break.”
Among other recommendations, Liu is pushing DOF to remove companies that are not abiding by the rules, restore the summonses to the original, unreduced amount, and charge interest to scofflaws.
While Liu said DOF has “in substance” agreed with his office’s suggestions, Elizabeth Botwin, Deputy Commissioner at DOF, said in a letter to the Comptroller’s office that the audit “fails to recognize that DOF has been developing solutions to the issues the report raises since 2011, and is scheduled to complete the roll out of the new program between November and January.”
“The changes that started in February and will be completed by January 2013 were put into place long before the audit started and go far beyond the audit recommendations,” Botwin said. Besides enforcing existing rules, the changes include substantial IT programming, she said.
Botwin says the Comptroller has “inappropriately cast aspersions on good corporate citizens” who had trouble keeping up with tickets and fines because of cumbersome paperwork. To fix this problem, DOF is putting into place an overhauled web interface, which will allow violations to be managed over the Internet.
Starting next month, “penalties will be imposed if a violation is not paid timely,” she said. Companies that accumulate over $350 in judgment debt will be removed from the program and all their tickets will be subject to enforcement.
Botwin disagrees that the city is owed $9.3 million. “New payables constantly arise and old payables are resolved.”
She did agree, however, that $3.7 million in outstanding summonses older than 180 days is “unacceptable.” But she says that the “many steps we have already prepared to revamp the program” will “eliminate this problem.”
Botwin did not comment on why, over the eight years of the Commercial Fleet Program, no company has ever been removed for breaking the rules.