AUBURN — The city’s chief of police said he believes an “extremely unusual” number of alternate-side parking tickets written by the city’s parking enforcement officer are dismissed by an Auburn City Court judge each month.
“It seems like pretty much any ticket that gets a protest form filed is dismissed,” Auburn Police Chief Gary Giannotta said Thursday.
While attending a recent session of parking court, presided over monthly by City Judge Thomas J. Shamon, Giannotta said the judge dismissed most if not all of the alternate-side tickets that came before him.
If someone receives a ticket for a parking violation in Auburn, that individual can fill out a protest form at the city treasurer’s office if he believes the ticket was incorrectly issued.
The protest form is then sent with the ticket to Shamon’s court, held on the second Monday of each month, and the judge can either uphold the ticket, reduce the fine or dismiss the violation.
“It’s completely within (the judge’s) purview to do that if he feels it’s necessary,” Giannotta said. “I can’t affect what’s happening in court and I know mistakes do happen, but it’s just hard to believe that we’re making mistakes that often.”
Shamon could not be reached for comment.
Judge Michael McKeon, whom Giannotta said he spoke with regarding the number of dismissals, said he couldn’t comment on Shamon’s decision-making process in alternate-side parking violation cases.
McKeon said the court receives more than 100 appeals of parking tickets each month, but would not estimate how many tickets are overturned.
Giannotta said the judgments affect the morale of the city’s two meter attendants and the part-time parking enforcement officer who enforce parking ordinances.
“It’s disheartening to the attendants that write the tickets,” he said. “They’re doing their job, they’re trying to take care of the problem, but then the tickets just get dismissed.
“The city’s code doesn’t say it’s okay if it’s snowing or if you forgot to move your car. If you’re in violation, you’re supposed to be issued a citation.”
The chief added that his officers generally take a non-aggressive approach to ticketing, usually voiding a ticket if an owner shows up to move the offending vehicle while they’re in the process of writing a citation or issuing courtesy cards for vehicles that are unfamiliar.
“These guys are out there a lot and they actually recognize the habitual offenders,” he said. “They’re not out there hammering people. If there’s a car out there they don’t know, they’ll put a courtesy ticket on it.”
Under the current code, vehicle parked on city streets should be parked on the odd-numbered side of the street at 6 p.m. on odd dates and the even-numbered side at 6 p.m. on even dates. Giannotta said the officers recognize a 30-minute grace period on either side of the imposed deadline.
A ticket for a violation of the ordinance carries a $10 fine, which doubles if the ticket isn’t paid within 10 days.
The Auburn City Council is currently reviewing the ordinance to determine whether to keep it in effect year-round or to return to a seasonal schedule, beginning alternate-side enforcement in November and ending in March.
Giannotta, who opposed the year-round schedule when first proposed by city leaders because of a lack of enforcement personnel, now supports it, saying vehicles parked on both sides of streets hinder large emergency vehicles.
Staff writer Nathan Baker can be reached at 282-2238 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at CitizenBaker.