Pittsburgh Parking Authority dismisses suspicious tickets

Officer 'erroneously' cited three vehicles

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The Pittsburgh Parking Authority plans to dismiss three tickets written by a parking enforcement officer who is now under investigation for "erroneously" citing vehicles that may not have even been parked at the time the tickets were issued.

An investigation was launched after two Pittsburgh Post-Gazette employees received letters informing them that they were delinquent for paying parking tickets they had never received. One employee contacted the authority earlier this week seeking answers.

"This officer was in a place where [she] shouldn't have been," said Dave Onorato, the authority's executive director. He said the officer, whom he declined to identify, could face discipline, but he would not go into detail because it's a personnel matter.

The letters indicated the two employees were cited for allowing meters to expire while parked at 245 Fourth Ave. -- across from the authority's headquarters -- shortly after 5 p.m. on July 19. But both were parked several blocks away near the Post-Gazette building on that day, located at 34 Boulevard of the Allies.

One employee was parked in the building's back lot and the other was parked in a private lot across Commonwealth Place. Surveillance footage from the Post-Gazette building's security cameras showed both vehicles pulled out of the parking lots and onto Commonwealth Place at around the same time the tickets were issued. It's possible that those who were targeted were not even parked when the officer issued the tickets, Mr. Onorato said.

The GPS on the woman's handheld ticketing device indicated she was somewhere near the Post-Gazette building when she issued the tickets, and not at 245 Fourth Ave. Additionally, the authority requested still photos from surveillance footage taken by the Post-Gazette that show the parking enforcement officer walking near the building within the 5 o'clock hour, the Post-Gazette employee who provided the photos said.

Officers often take pictures of vehicles when they issue tickets to provide backup documentation that a motorist was illegally parked and received a ticket. But the photos that accompanied the three tickets were "blank," Mr. Onorato said, "like a white sky."

A third ticket was issued by the officer at roughly the same time and claimed the motorist was also parked near 245 Fourth Ave. Mr. Onorato said the authority gave that motorist the benefit of the doubt and decided to dismiss that ticket as well.

The executive director said he's never seen a situation like this in his near-decade with the authority. Officials are also reviewing all of the tickets written by the enforcement officer since that day and have found no other inconsistencies. They also scrutinized 22 other tickets she wrote on July 19 and found them all to be legitimate.

Mr. Onorato acknowledged that the enforcement officer likely entered the license plate numbers in "knowingly," but does not believe she was targeting the motorists. He said that the woman was interviewed, but he declined to say what she disclosed when questioned. He also would not say if she provided an explanation as to why she chose to ticket the vehicles.

"She provided her side of the story," he said.


Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.


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