Carl Monday investigates parking problems in downtown Cleveland
CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Last year, the City of Cleveland collected more than $8 Million in parking fines. Now it may have to pay some of that money back. An investigation by Cleveland 19 Chief Investigator Carl Monday found some motorists may have been wrongly ticketed because of improperly placed parking signs.
Don Simpson is one of those individuals. Back in March of this year, Simpson parked his Chrysler minivan at East 21st & Prospect. He put money in the meter on his way to run an errand nearby.
When he returned, he still had twenty minutes on the meter. And a gift on his windshield, compliments of the City of Cleveland. A $25 parking ticket. Simpson told Monday he wasn't trying to break the law. "That's why I fed the meter!" he explained.
But Simpson, a retired machinist and part-time DJ wasn't ticketed for an expired meter. He was nailed for parking in a "No Parking Zone." Yes, the city had posted a "No Parking Anytime" sign, just feet from a row of parking meters. How could that be? And why was the violation upheld by the Parking Violations Bureau? Well Simpson and Monday have spent months trying to find an answer.
When asked by Monday why he approved the citation, Parking Violations Hearing Officer Brian Mahon said "I couldn't tell you why. I don't write the tickets."
Mahon did admit, however, he's never seen a case in ten years where a "No Parking Anytime Sign" was posted near a working meter.
"So it looks like the city put the wrong sign up there," asked Monday. "It looks like it to me. Because if they had it (the sign) going both ways, it doesn't make sense to have the meter there." Asked if the city made a mistake, Mahon replied "It would seem that way."
The mistake may involve more than just Don Simpson. Clerk of Court records show at least 39 other motorists were ticketed at the same spot. And that was just the first three months of this year. And there's no telling how many other improper parking signs may be posted around the city.
For it's part, the City admits it messed up.
"Looks like we done some things we shouldn't have done, and put some things in place that shouldn't have been there," says City Public Works Director Michael Cox.
Cox, who's Department oversees Parking Enforcement, said he believes the snafu occurred during the resurfacing of Prospect Avenue, a joint $1.6 Million project shared by ODOT, a private contractor and the City.
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"There was a lot of disconnect," said Cox. "So what we have to do is figure out what went wrong and correct it before it happens again."
What remains unanswered is why, sometime after Simpson and others were ticketed at E. 21st & Prospect, the City removed the "No Parking Sign" and replaced it with another sign, allowing motorists to park there for up to two hours.
"Something's not right when they removed a sign, they changed a sign, and then tell me that my pictures don't match.," said a bewildered Simpson.
Cox, meanwhile, has assured Cleveland 19 the City will do whatever it takes to rectify the problem. "Whatever it takes to help the people who got tickets unjustly," Cox promised. The City is still working on details.
As for anyone thinking about parking at that location in the future, don't even think about it. A new "No Parking" sign has been posted, and the meters have all been removed because of a bike lane that's been established along Prospect.
Simpson may have said it all when he told Monday "Something is funny here." Funny thing, Simpson isn't laughing. While he waits to appeal his ticket, his fine has been increased---to fifty bucks.
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