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D.C. parking ticket saga continues for federal employee

Tuesday - 4/9/2013, 11:10am  ET

stantondmv.jpg
Stanton says he learned about the ticket from a second notice that showed his fine had doubled. (Courtesy John Stanton)

Ari Ashe, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Since WTOP first reported the story about a federal employee fighting a parking ticket from 2011, the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles has rejected another plea to toss the ticket.

John R. Stanton, who has worked for U.S. Customs and Border Protection for 22 years, received the ticket for an infraction that reportedly occurred in the 700 block of Maryland Avenue NE on July 11, 2011. But Stanton claims he was on official government business in Arizona and his Mercedes was parked at Dulles International Airport on that day.

He provided WTOP with government orders, along with receipts from the hotel, airline and parking garage to demonstrate he left on July 7 and returned on July 14.

After questioning, the DMV agreed to reopen Stanton's case and re-evaluate the evidence. But on the same day, March 22, the agency closed the case again and found him liable for the parking ticket.

Stanton again was not invited to a hearing. In fact, the same hearing officer who found him liable the first time found him liable a second time.

"If a fresh set of eyes is a good way to double-check for mistakes, you would have thought there would be transparency here and a different hearing officer would have been assigned to review my case," says Stanton.

But the DMV reiterated to WTOP that Stanton's receipts only proved that some vehicle was parked at the airport from July 7 to July 14 -- not necessarily his Mercedes.

After being told that, Stanton decided to drive to Dulles airport. Last Wednesday, he received two photographs taken at the parking garage that show the same vehicle the DMV claims was in D.C. on July 11 entered the airport parking garage on July 7 at 5:33 p.m. and didn't leave until July 14 at 5:39 p.m.

Working with the Department of Homeland Security, Stanton says he knows all airport garages keep precise records of each vehicle that enters and exits for security purposes.

"In addition, the Dulles staff ran the transaction record where they billed my credit card on July 14," says Stanton.

"Also when I returned from my government trip, my tire was flat. They have this service at Dulles where they help you in those situations for free. They even had the form I filled out on July 14, the release form from the tow truck.

"On it is my vehicle information, including the license plate. They even printed out the entire service log list for July 2011, including my vehicle."

"He has a mountain of evidence to prove his case that he was not in Northeast D.C. But the DMV is going to pervert that into a molehill because he didn't respond in time," says John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic's manager of public and government affairs.

On March 20, DMV Director Lucinda Babers told WTOP that Stanton waived his right to a hearing because he responded 66 days after the July 11, 2011 parking ticket. Drivers are supposed to respond within 60 days.

However, Stanton points out that when he was found liable again on March 22, the DMV didn't mail out the notice until March 27. He calls that hypocritical.

"Why would a man of his standing go through this great length to fight a penny-ante ticket like this unless he was telling the truth?" asks Townsend.

"WTOP has been calling this a bogus ticket. Really this is a trumped-up, falsified, fictitious ticket. It allows us to peer into the dark underside of parking enforcement in the District of Columbia."

Despite all this, Stanton finds one thing more troubling than anything else. It took from July 11, 2011 until April 4, 2013 to receive a copy of the original ticket.

On it, he says there's a glaring error.

"In the body description box of the ticket, it says it's a two-door car. And I actually have a four-door sedan. Clearly the person who wrote the ticket didn't even know what kind of a car this license plate comes back to," says Stanton.

The DMV would not comment further about the case, and would only add that Stanton has the right to appeal the decision to the Traffic Adjudication Appeals Board. However, according to the DMV: "The Appeals Board may only consider evidence presented to the hearing examiner. You must, however, submit a brief statement to the Board describing the basis for your appeal."

This means Stanton may be unable to submit the newly obtained photographs from Dulles airport or the service logs for his flat tire.

Townsend says the whole case defies common sense and that any reasonable person would just throw out the ticket.

"You have 1.8 million parking tickets in D.C. last year and 2 million the year before. I think we're going to discover that John Stanton is the tip of the iceberg. There are probably hundreds, perhaps thousands of cases where people have been falsely and wrongly ticketed," says Townsend.

As WTOP reported, only 10.6 percent of parking tickets issued in FY 2012 were contested. But among those tickets contested, exactly half were dismissed.

"There should be an oversight hearing on this to investigate this fully. The public deserves to know if there is fraud, if tickets are being falsified, or if there's a quota. We need to know the truth. We need a light to be shined on these practices," says Townsend.

D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, oversees the DMV. She didn't return several requests for comment on this story.

Babers also did not respond for comment.

"This is not just about me. There are others out there like me. I hope D.C. Inspector General (Charles) Willoughby takes this with keen interest. Seems like this is a level of corruption that is worthy of the inspector general's time," says Stanton.

If you think you're the victim of a bogus speed camera, red-light camera or parking ticket in D.C., Maryland or Virgina, 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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