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Parking tickets thrown out after glitch found in machine

Friday - 12/13/2013, 4:30am  ET

payhere.jpg
This ticket machine was the culprit of a glitch. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

SILVER SPRING, Md. - Last week, a D.C. man who works in Silver Spring received two tickets in three days, the result of a glitch at a pay terminal.

Bruno, who asked we not use his last name, received both tickets at the Cameron Street garage. He says he paid for a full day and left the garage.

"I pay every morning, but when I left the office in the evening, I noticed I had a ticket. At first, I thought I hadn't put enough time on it, but when I looked at my permit, I realized that the citation had been wrongfully written to me," says Bruno. "Three days later, the same issue happened, that's when I got upset because I knew something was really wrong with the system."

Montgomery County officials tell WTOP it was because of a problem at one of their pay stations. In the Cameron Street garage, after drivers park, they go to a pay station, enter the spot, then pay for the time. There are no paper tickets to put on the windshield or paper tickets to hand to a cashier upon exiting the garage.

"We have 20 of these pay stations spread out across this garage to make sure there aren't lines. The problem is that pay station No. 15 was not communicating with the server that manages the database for the whole garage," says Chief of the Montgomery County Parking Division Rick Siebert.

Siebert says when parking enforcement officers pulled the records, spots paid for at station 15 didn't show up in the logs. Therefore, the officers were unaware someone paid for the spot. The parking division began investigating the issue the day before WTOP contacted them, after a parking enforcement officer noticed an unusual spike in tickets concentrated near the pay station.

"The controller at this pay station wasn't working. It didn't say it was offline, so the parking officer wasn't aware that machine 15 wasn't working properly, but it also didn't show the payments for anyone using station 15," says Siebert. "So unfortunately, people came back to their cars with a fully paid for space with a ticket on it and said, 'What in the world did I get a ticket for? I've got a receipt right here. It says my space is paid for.' That's exactly what happened to this driver."

Bruno provided documents to WTOP, which we turned over to Siebert and that information helped them track down the source of the problem. Last Thursday, Montgomery County suspended all parking tickets in the Cameron Street garage as a precaution. The problem was fixed on Tuesday afternoon.

"There were about 20 erroneous tickets issued, including this driver. We've dismissed all of these tickets and informed all of the drivers involved. Some of the drivers had actually paid their tickets and we are sending them refund checks," says Siebert. "I'm very sorry Bruno was ticketed in the first place. This was clearly something he had no control over. And it's not something we want repeated."

Bruno says he's happy that Montgomery County parking officials handled his situation in such a professional manner.

"They took care of it immediately and handled it very quickly and effectively. I have no hard feelings towards them. They reached out to me directly to explain what happened. I think they did a very good job handling my situation and I'm happy WTOP was able to help me out," he says, calling it an example of good government.

If you think you're the victim of a bogus speed camera, red-light camera or parking ticket in D.C., Maryland or Virginia, WTOP may be able to help you cut the red tape. Email us your case - along with documentation - to ticketbuster@wtop.com.

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