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Have judge — will gavel! Pol: Treasury-hired traffic judges too partial to making the city money

Brooklyn Daily
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He says the city shouldn’t be judge, jury, and executioner.

A Marine Park politician doesn’t trust the city treasury to appoint parking ticket judges, because the ostensibly impartial adjudicators have a vested interest in collecting fines rather than meteing out justice. An independent agency must hire traffic court judges, because the revenue-collecting Department of Finance’s mission to keep the city’s coffers topped off creates a conflict of interest, he said.

“If I hire the judges, I should be able to expect a certain outcome,” said Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Marine Park). “If the Department of Finance hires the judges, they could expect to find people guilty.”

Maisel drafted legislation that would give appointment power to the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, an independent agency with no mandate to raise money, he said.

And there is precedent for the move.

Agencies that generate revenue through fines — such as the Taxi and Limousine Tribunal, the Environmental Control Board, and the Health Tribunal — are already under the Office of Administrative Hearings and Tribunals’ purview, Maisel said.

“OATH is independent,” he said. “In most of these circumstances, these tribunals have been transferred to OATH to begin with, so why not the Parking Violations Bureau?”

Maisel introduced the bill in 2014, but council has yet to vote on it — though 18 of the city’s 50 sitting council members support the legislation, he said.

One supportive pol hopes the law would open the entire ticketing and appeals process to greater reform. For instance, drivers wishing to appeal parking tickets have the option to pay fines ahead of going to court to avoid incurring additional penalties, and the city benefits from an interest-free loan even if it finds the driver was innocent and refunds the fine — something that rubs motorists the wrong way, the pol said.

“It really, it irks New Yorkers,” said Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge). “It really is not what most people consider a fair way of dealing with New Yorkers.”

The Department of Finance sees no problem with the current situation, and judges are beholden to the law — not the finance department that hires them, a spokeswoman said.

“Administra­tive law judges are independent contractors and not employees of the Department of Finance,” said Sonia Alleyne. “Adjudication hearings are determined by law, and the judges are bound to uphold the law.”

The city collected more than $500 million in parking fines in 2013, according to the Independent Budget Office.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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