Retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez knows a little bit about challenging dubious parking tickets and receiving a just result. In this commentary she ponders the reason Parking Hearing Officer Matt McCarthy was “Fired for being too nice.”
On July 6, 2019, CT POST readers were greeted with a front page headline announcing that Bridgeport Parking Hearing Officer Matthew McCarthy, was “Fired for being too nice.”
The headline ended with a question mark.
It appears that the headline writer considers dismissing tickets an act performed by ‘nice’ hearing officers.
The use of the word ‘nice’ is puzzling, given that a hearing on an accusation of violating the City’s Parking ordinance is the first step in a process set forth in General Statutes Section 7-152b. This section provides that the “Superior Court shall be authorized to enforce the assessments and judgments provided for under this section.”
The section also authorizes a municipality “to establish by ordinance a parking violation hearing procedure.”
If an accused is dissatisfied with the results of a hearing, an appeal to the Superior Court is the remedy.
In his revealing article, Brian Lockhart reports that Mr. McCarthy was told by Department of Public Facilities’ employee Steve Auerbach, that he “was dismissing too many tickets.” Mr. McCarthy responded that he “ruled on parking tickets the way I felt was fair.”
Nice or Fair?
Given a choice, I would always opt for fairness.
Being ‘nice’ is commendable. However, it appears that Mr. McCarthy’s unforgivable transgression is not that he is ‘nice,’ but that he insisted on being fair, even in the face of pressure from a political patronage employee.
The unspoken message conveyed by Mr. Auerbach, is “You’re here to squeeze money from the taxpayers by raising revenue. Stop being fair, don’t you realize that you are costing us money, every time you dismiss a ticket?”
Mayor Ganim embarked on his tortured, punitive practice towards parking enforcement when he introduced ‘robo-meters’ with cameras into the downtown area. Following a justified public outcry, and the expenditure of exorbitant sums of taxpayer funds, the meters were removed.
At the same time ‘robo-meters’ were installed, Mayor Ganim’s rubber-stamp City Council passed an ordinance removing the parking division from the Traffic Authority and placing it into the Department of Public Facilities.
For the City resident and taxpayer, this move into the Department of Public Facilities translates into an increase in patronage available for Mayor Ganim and the Democratic Machine, as well as an aggressive ticketing campaign designed to enhance revenue, which is another way of disguising a tax increase.
I do not mean to suggest that the Mayor was unable to pack the Parking Enforcement Division with his lackeys while the division was within the control of his hand-picked Chief of Police and Police Commission. However, at least law enforcement professionals were in charge, not political appointees intoxicated with their newly discovered power.
Fortunately, two of the hearing officers appointed by the Mayor, Mr. McCarthy and Retired Officer Manuel Cotto, opt for fairness, and are willing to hold up a stop sign in front of the political steam roller.
It is only while the division has been under the control of the Department of Public Facilities, that the public has been warned by Steven Auerbach, “Do not invite company–only you and your attorney will be seen by the hearing officer.” He added, that “All hearings are behind closed doors and all those waiting for a hearing wait in the lobby.”
This was too much even for our City Attorney’s Office, which is usually oblivious to the Freedom of Information Act.
While City Attorney Meyer and his 14-attorney law firm do not staff the hearings or even appear to provide legal guidance of any kind, they did concede that all hearings are open and cannot be closed to the public.
Now, we are told that the Department of Public Facilities, through its parking division is working to raise revenues by stacking the process with lackeys who do Mayor Ganim’s bidding and uphold the tickets.
The City’s defense of its failure to assign cases to Mr. McCarthy is laughable. According to Mayor Ganim’s office, Mr. McCarthy has not been available when asked.
Asking a CPA to volunteer to preside over parking ticket appeals during tax season reveals a stunning lack of common sense.
What is the excuse now that April 15th has passed?
Kudos to Mr. McCarthy for having the courage to be fair and just.