There’s not much in Philadelphia less popular than the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The blue-uniformed ticket takers are notorious for papering cars with violations, affording no one who parks in the city a grace period. If your meter runs over by five minutes, or you’re a few inches over the line of a no-park zone, you’ll be fined. If not, you’re lucky.
This is true in most sections of the city. It’s definitely true for Chestnut Hill, where no other agency incites the public ire in quite the same way. As I wrote six months ago, when we learned that the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation would turn enforcement of its lots to the PPA, critics of the plan acted as though the job was given to Hell’s Angels.
Now those who feel they’ve been wronged by the Parking Authority have a new hero. His name is Jim Pavlock, a Fairmount attorney who called a ticket hearing judge’s bluff to take his complaints about several parking tickets to the Court of Common Pleas. And the court handed down a ruling that gives the PPA new guidelines and Philadelphia motorists new rights in fighting erroneous parking tickets.
The case stemmed from several tickets Pavlock received that he said were erroneous. When he appealed them to the Board of Administrative Adjudication (BAA), where one normally appeals tickets, he argued that the tickets were invalid because they were not signed by the PPA officer and also did not list the specific address where he was parked. Instead it just listed a generic reference to the block on which Pavlock was parked.
Pavlock asked to cross-examine the issuing officer and was refused. “Take it up with the Court of Common Pleas,” he was told.
So last week, Common Pleas judge Leon Tucker issued a ruling that compels the PPA to do the following:
1. The BAA must inform ticket appellants that they have the right to cross-examine the issuing PPA officer. This provision should come as notice to ticket officers that they could be held accountable for every detail in a ticket. Anything missing could come back to them in a hearing.
2. All tickets must have an exact location or the BAA hearing examiner must dismiss the ticket.
3. All tickets issued must be signed by the officer.
4. If a BAA examiner dismisses an appeal, the examiner must provide the reasons why in writing and at the time of the hearing.
This means more to Philadelphians than simply a moment to cheer the victory of Joe Citizen. This isn’t just that one time Charlie Brown manages to kick the football.
What this ruling does is give everyone who gets a ticket a fair chance at challenging that ticket. And it should ensure that PPA officers do a better job of making sure that the tickets they do issue follow the letter of the law. It not, they could end up trying to justify their tickets at a hearing.
So when you get a ticket that you think was unfair, you now have a shot at getting it waived. Turns out you can fight the PPA and win, thanks to Pavlock.