PORTLAND -- A Portland parking permit that failed to stick to a man's window ended up sticking him with a parking ticket.
“I was shocked to find a parking ticket on my windshield when I’d paid for a parking permit that was still valid,” said Brett Bell. After a closer look, Bell found the parking permit he’d purchased and stuck to his car door window had fallen off.
“No problem,” said Bell. “I’ll pay the fine with a check and send it in with a letter explaining what happened, along with my valid parking permit proving I had paid for parking. I’m sure the judge will dismiss the ticket.”
Bell’s $80 check was almost immediately cashed by Multnomah County Circuit Court, with no letter or call explaining to why he was not cleared of the fee.
“That's what really felt wrong when they took my money anyway, even though I'd bought the ticket and given them proof of it,” said Bell. “Not only did they take my money but they didn't give me any sort of written explanation as to why.” This happened in October, 2010.
In December, 2010, Bell said his wife also got a parking ticket in Portland with the same vehicle, and the same problem: a parking permit came unstuck from the window and a $40 ticket was on the windshield.
Learning from Brett’s experience, his wife personally contested her ticket by taking her valid parking permit to Multnomah County Circuit Court. After talking to the judge, her ticket was reduced by half to $20, Bell said.
Reeling from his experience of being found "guilty until proven innocent," Bell contacted KGW.
Portland Transportation spokesperson Cheryl Kuck explained that once the city issues a parking ticket, it’s up to the courts to sort out who’s right, wrong, or innocent of a parking infraction. “We enforce as to what we find at the vehicle parked at the curb. From that point on it's up to the court to render a decision,” said Kuck.
Trial Court Administrator Doug Bray was not surprised to hear that the court had immediately cashed Bell’s check. “It says right on the parking ticket that payment in full is to be made and then a date is set to hear the case.” Said Bray. “The judge decides to give some of the money, all of the money, or none of the money back after reviewing the case.”
Bray added, “Because of furloughs the courts are so backlogged that Bell’s case probably hasn’t even been heard yet.” Which means Bell could still get all, some, or none of his money back.
By August the city plans to have all parking vending machines switched over to issue non-adhesive parking permits. They look like the sticky permits now, but they will be wedged between a vehicle's window and weather strip, with the information facing outward.
They’re simpler, faster and more reliable, according to people surveyed in a pilot program. Kuck said if drivers are concerned about permits falling off the window they can always use the alternative placement: on the dashboard, facing up.
Send tips to Ed Teachout by calling (503) 226-5041 or email email@example.com.
More: KGW Consumer News Page