Nassau comptroller: Unpaid tickets 'urgent issue'

A parking ticket on the windshield on a

A parking ticket on the windshield on a car at the Mineola LIRR station. (May 4, 2011) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

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Nassau's Traffic and Parking Violations Agency needs a new system to collect tens of millions in outstanding fines, according to Comptroller George Maragos.

"The growing backlog of unpaid tickets is an urgent issue that requires more aggressive collection efforts," Maragos said in a news release Tuesday about his audit of the system.

He praised improved agency actions after John Marks took it over in January 2010, but noted a huge loss of revenue, especially from the "rising number of unpaid red light camera fines."

The report showed that at the end of 2010, the agency had $44.09 million in expected uncollected traffic violation fines dating back 10 years and another $26.8 million in parking violation fines racked up since 2004. Unpaid red light camera violations -- a system in place since 2009 -- were at $10 million at the end of 2011, Maragos said. This was all money county officials hoped would help with the county's budget crisis.

"Most concerning," Maragos said in his news release, is that unpaid red light camera tickets grew from 7,884 at the end of 2009 to 46,862 at the end of 2010 and were at 107,841 by the end of last year.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano thanked Maragos for his audit and its recognition of the agency's improvement efforts.

"Our residents deserve a fair and efficient system and that is what we intend to continue implementing," he said. "In the near future, our residents will see additional collection measures taken for those egregious offenders who have multiple unpaid tickets."

Mangano had made a strong effort last year to collect parking penalties by offering amnesty and no late payment fees to violators with three or more outstanding tickets if they were paid before Sept. 15. It failed.

Mangano said he had hoped to recoup as much as $21.7 million in unpaid tickets. Instead, when the four-month extended deadline ended Sept. 15, only $186,481 had been collected.

County officials had said that, after the amnesty period, they would "boot and tow" the ticketed car of any scofflaw when found. That never happened.

Brian Nevin, a spokesman for Mangano, said a proposal for a "boot and tow" contract will soon be sent to the legislature. But he would not say why that did not happen last year.

Maragos' audit, however, suggests that the county do the following: Speed up the anticipated replacement of its computer system; demand that the red light camera vendor improve reporting of receivables, dismissals and collections; implement management review of cash receipt reconciliation errors; implement greater security for entrance into the agency employee areas to reduce the possibility of record tampering; and provide greater segregation of duties among employees to ensure that errors or irregularities are swiftly found and corrected.

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