Carmen Lopez: The Dollars And Cents Of Fair And Just Parking

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.

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37 comments

  1. As I have said previously,I feel bad for Steve,Joe stuck him in that job in exchange for being his personal cheerleader when needed.He had no prior experiance dealing with any of this.Joe just wanted him to lay low,take care of the meter fiasco&watchover ticket hearings.But of course,Steve being Steve,can’t just lay low.In an attempt to please Joe,Steve came on OIB and tried to play the roll that he was in charge,and he sets the rules.Well,the city attorney’s office &Judge Lopez put Steve in his place,he isn’t in charge,and he definately doesn’t set the rules,in fact,he doesn’t even know the rules..Now fast forward a few weeks and this story about Steve wanting to collect as much Money on tickets as he could,comes out,again,an obvious attempt of Steve’s to impress Joe.Instead,it backfired and with election day 3.5 months away,Joe can’t be happy with these headlines.Joe has to be kicking himself for this hire,but this is what you get when you give out patronage jobs to supporters.Joe you should of gave Steve a job in the parks dept cutting grass or something,what trouble could he had caused there?

  2. Let me just say Mr McCarthy was very fair at the hearings. After a person one their appeal, I saw Stevie run outside after the person and start berating him and yelling that he was lucky the hearing Officer let him go and that he should not have been !!! He did this numerous times and was pissed every time Mr McCarthy granted an appeal … and now they have a Ganim guy doing the hearings…… So everyone is gonna pay…. #Dontbotherappealingpeople

    1. Tex,
      This goes on in EVERY department of City Government…… Was it the fire department taking the Port Jeff Ferryboat? Or who was it? Man, the things I’ve seen at City hall, I should write a book…… Maybe Lennie can help me with that? Oh wait, that’s Joe’s boy again!!!
      Does Joe Ganim even live in Bridgeport? He’s had 3 addresses in the last 3 years? The One on elm street, he had his BOY Nadrizany put up a special sign so Only Ganim can park there. And Ganim has the balls to come home at 4:30 am and call the Police because someone was parked in his made up/ illegal space.
      Needless to say the dumbass knew he looked stupid so he had the sign taken down after that. I may still have a picture on my phone!!!

      1. So, you acknowledge “corruption” I’ll be kind “wastefulness” is prevalent in city government spending, and I will bet within your 25 years of government service. You were a recipient of some “wastefulness”

        Why not write a book, everyone else has? Who are you kidding? The only book your writing is on Facebook. 😊 Oh yeah, the reason you seen a lot of things in City Hall was because you were part of a lot of those things.

        By the way, you answered you own question. Yes, Joe lives in the Port. Apparently, Joe came home at 4:30 in the morning and called the cops because some dumb-ass who couldn’t read a sign and parked in Joe’s spot. I even hear there’s evidence on someone phone. Chief Perez get to the bottom of is. 😊

        P.S A, don’t underestimate the power of a sign. Tony Barr, billboards. 😊 and B, the magnitude and significant of a picture on a phone. Like Woody if it was deleted none of this would ever had happen. 😊 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3NxwSpLeEQ

  3. The Honorable Judge Lopez- calling it as she sees it- AND AS IT IS. Thank you!
    These cohorts however, keep getting patronage jobs, special treatment, etc etc, which is why the recent Wallet Hub report informs us that Bridgeport is the 104th worst run city in the nation. This report is not opinion as it is based upon a study using factual data which clearly shows that city officials do not manage public funds appropriately as evidenced by the poor quality of services provided to residents. If the city is not using its funds to provide the best of quality services to its residents then its using the majority of the funds to pay themselves and the crumbs go for the services. Sounds to me that the cities mentality is they think of themselves as royalty.
    ‘let them eat cake’?? !!!!!

  4. This is a disgrace but it shows Ganim’s true colors.
    Making up rules as they go along.
    Public servants berating citizens because things didn’t go their way.
    Firing volunteer parking enforcement officer because he is too nice or goes too easy on the public.
    And Stevie A loving all of the attention he is getting.
    It’s a crying shame.

  5. Bob, unfortunately that’s “the Ganim way,” place unqualified people in certain position with NO oversight and adult supervision and just let them run wild with no control. For 11 years, 7 years of Bill Finch as mayor and the 4 years of Joe Ganim Bridgeport HAS NOT HIRED one woman in the Fire Department, Ganim was made aware of this injustice from day one of becoming mayor and he turned his back on ALL WOMEN and allowed David Dunn who is unqualified to remain in office and now Ganim has placed little Stevie A. in a City position who is NOT qualified and has allowed him to run wild over taxpayers. This is the leadership that Joe Ganim has given the voters of Bridgeport and the same type of clown leadership that Governor Ganim will bring to Bridgeport if he’s reelected again as mayor.

  6. By the way, what happened to Stevie A?
    Haven’t seen him post lately. Is he too embarrassed by stories like this?
    I figured if he wasn’t embarrassed by the story about parking meters not being ADA permissible than nothing would embarrass him.

  7. Judge Lopez is not intimidated by anyone. She conducts thorough research and is always well prepared. She stands her ground because she can.

    Steve is behaving outrageously as a city employee. Telling members of the public that they cannot attend Parking Enforcement Hearings, berating those who attend and prevail, and reprimanding hearing officers for actually listening to those ticketed and weighing evidence and testimony to offer a “fair” outcome.

    Judge Lopez is spot on as usual.

  8. Wow
    Thanks, Judge Lopez
    I wasn’t on the City Council when this new ordinance was pasted. During our budget hearings many council people spoke about moving this dept back into the police dept. where it should be. I’ve witness first hand that we have a mini police dept called Parking meter police. A order went out to look up all city councilpersons and their family members because someone in Public Facilities was angry because we stopped these paving contracts. I do believe if parking meter personnel want to act like police officers we should move them back under our police dept.

    1. They just built a brand new office 3 months ago at 45 Lying terrace (spelled correctly) with a fortified window for Stevie to collect his $$ for the city. I don’t see them moving anytime soon.

    2. In 2017, I wrote the resolutions for a 12 month moratorium on meters with the end goal of re-establishing the “Bridgeport Parking Authority” that joe abolished under Ganim1 in July, 1994. Denise and Jack, my city council members, submitted the resolution and it got tabled because they simply could not explain why we needed a parking authority to other council members despite having 9 other council members co-sign the resolution.

      The city attorney quickly knew where I was going with it and saw how we just got the fines reduced from $40 to $20 and Free Saturday parking immediately had language drafted to change the ordinance to create a Parking Division placed under director of facilities and out of the police dept ($1.1 Million of parking fine monies have supplemented the police overtime budget for a decade). This was an attempt t appease us and get this moratorium talk out of here.

      I disagree with you , parking enforcement is a civilian duty and does not belong under the police dept where you have to go through metal detectors to pay a fine. No other town does this. Every major town in Connecticut has a “Parking Authority” with professionals on staff on asset management, economic development, urban planning, and tourism.

      https://parknewhaven.com/
      https://www.norwalkpark.org/
      https://hartfordparking.com/

      1. I just want to add that Judge Carmen Lopez was instrumental in guidance and encouragement on taking on Parking meters and management. i also had a ton of help from fellow downtown merchants.

      2. Kelvin Ayala, thank you for your post, it’s really important what you said, “The city attorney quickly knew where I was going with it and saw how we just got the fines reduced from $40 to $20 and Free Saturday parking immediately had language drafted to change the ordinance to create a Parking Division placed under director of facilities and out of the police dept ($1.1 Million of parking fine monies have supplemented the police overtime budget for a decade). This was an attempt t appease us and get this moratorium talk out of here.” It is the Bridgeport City Attorney’s Office that truly RUNS Bridgeport and it is the first office that MUST be changed by the next mayor. The City Attorneys gives Mayor Ganim the protection to do what ever he wants the same way that Bill Barr, America’s Attorney General, America’s top cop, who acts like he’s President 45 personal attorney and not America’s attorney, that office MUST be cleared out. The City Council acts on everything that is told to them by the City Attorney’s Office, everything with no questions or push back.

  9. Ernie,
    If you believe it should be under the police, out in a resolution and stop this grandstanding.
    But more importantly, what’s going to be different. Peter Keogh was not a policeman.

    1. Bob
      Let me do my job! First of all If i was grandstanding i didn’t have to say anything on this issue. Changes are coming. You have no cue what’s going on behind the scenes. i do know this we don’t need two police forces with two different Police Chiefs, sorry one self appointed chief lol.

      1. Ernie, I don’t understand why the voters don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, that has been a very big problem in Bridgeport, instead of having the voters know what’s going to give support when needed and to criticize when they feel that something is not in the best interest of the City. On the Parking Meter issue, Judge Lopez bought that issue forward months ago and now there’s another issue concerning problems with the Parking Meter system and still the City Council has said nothing. This problem is not new because Lennie ran stories as well as Conn. Post.

        1. Frank
          First of all i didn’t get elected with joe or mario’s help. The people of 139th dist voted for me. You of all people should be talking. i understand that the reason you didn’t run for city council was the bosses asked you not to run. I’m my own person if its something good for our city i’ll vote for it if it’s not i wont. so if you don’t know what you are talking about please keep your mouth close.

          1. Mr.Newton. No one is my boss. Your statement is way off fact. You are trying to fool us.

          2. Why did the 13 Council Members vote AYE to approve a new phase of the Pension A Bond calamity, instead of postpone with a NAY to a later date when the entire public would get more info, and look at alternatives?? Council Member Newton was likely one of the AYE utterers. Can he tell us why today? What does he know about financial markets, earning a better return in such markets than the rate at which you borrow, and what the likely expense from 2000 to 2045 will be to handle the retirement obligations of those retirees and spouses from Plan A?? Is $1.5 Billion a likely total by that date? Time will tell.

  10. The People of Bridgeport need to get ANGRY!, Will Marilyn Moore and her campaign channel into this anger and strip away Ganim’s lies,Mario Testa’s use and abuse of the People of Bridgeport because Testa is delusional about being some type of political “Godfather” of Bridgeport.

  11. JML
    I realize that many people on this BLOG dis-like Joe and Mario ETC. Mr. Lee first of all you don’t know what i know 2 of all you have come before the city council always complaining about this and that. When have you every come before the city council with any alternatives dealing with pensions or the budget?
    I voted for it because the connecticut Legislature gave us permission to do it. The old say you can pay me now or you can pay me later! We are paying for past city councils and Mayors that never funded pension A over the years.

    1. Ernie, with all due respect, please return to my most recent comments about the bond issues before you. I asked you as a CC to pause and table that one approval until you looked at alternatives. One of them that the public did not see was a listing of extra payments to Plan A until 2030 when the Plan A bond is fully paid at 7% interest for 30 years.
      One set of numbers that was shared with me showed payments rising from $17,000 to $28,000 in that period, perhaps $10,000 on average annually above our current payments (which were not projected and shared with taxpayers during that last dozen years during which period taxpayers were spending an extra 3% of budgets because of Plan A risks and failures.)
      Please read the email that I sent you as I do to each CC member after I have spoken. As a public speaker, I am limited as to time, prevented from accessing the materials provided to CC members to educate them, and prevented by CC rules from respectfully addressing Council committees when present. Kind of like doing the homework, submitting it, and then being ignored.
      I offer a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”. The 13 Council members who voted AYE, full speed ahead with the Pension A bond, displayed indifference at a minimum with all public speakers that evening urging patience and concern for the risks. How many alternatives were you shown? Why did you settle on kicking this can down the road in such a spectacular way? What is the present value of that promise to pay over the next 26 years? Time will tell.

      1. Paragraph two has numbers in 000s and they should be in Millions 000.000,000. That is $17 Million to $28 Million, perhaps $10 Million on average above current level. My apology to all. Happy to review with Ernie, or one and all. Just the facts, folks. Time will tell.

  12. Little Stevie Auerbach ought to be reminded that his job title is Director of Parking Enforcement, not Director of Selective Parking Enforcement. If He berated me in a hallway like that he’dhave a bloddy nose to contend with.

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