Metro employees fired for hiding 3,400 traffic tickets in a drawer

I got this email from a viewer who wishes to stay anonymous. But this email is why I got involved with this story.

Hi Andy.

I was driving my husband’s truck on Nolensville Road when I was pulled over and ticketed for an expired license plate.  The Officer was very nice – he said we should wait a week before going downtown to pay the ticket.  So a week later I took off work for (what turned out to be) a very long lunch, paid for parking, stood in line for over an hour only to be told that the ticket was not yet entered into the system.  The lady said I should call back every two or three days to see if the ticket has been entered before the 45 day expiration.  Everytime I called I was told it had not been entered and if it was not entered before the 45 day expiration date then I would not have to pay…  Finally on the 45th day I called and was told yet again that it was not entered and I did not have to pay the ticket.  I received a letter today (June 15th, 2009) stating that the city was extending the original expiration date and that I did have to pay the ticket afterall.  Now normally I would not blink an eye and just pay the ticket.  However, it does not seem right to have to pay the ticket now because I got the ticket 9 MONTHS AGO… on Septembner 28, 2008…   I called today and told the lady that I had tried and tried in good faith to pay the ticket and was told over and over that I could not pay it because it was not entered into the system yet – now nine months later the city wants me to pay saying they changed the expiration date…  No THAT’S MESSED UP!!!

Joy Warner is a 2nd viewer who tells the same tale.

Long story short; Warner says she is pulled over for expired tags. She says she gets her car inspected that same day. She keeps calling the traffic bureau to find out about the ticket. The clerk keeps telling her that her ticket is not in the system. Months go by, and still Joy’s ticket is not in the system. Joy Warner wants to take care of this problem, but she cannot because the system doesn’t know where her ticket is. Joy Warner says this is messed up.

It turns out it is Messed Up.

Bill Cartwright is Chief Deputy at the Traffic violations bureau.

Cartwright tells Messed Up that 2 employees hid as many as 3,400 tickets in desk drawers.

The tickets should have been processed, but they were not.

Cartwright says the women were assigned a certain number of tickets to process each day, but instead, Cartwright says they tossed 15 to 20 tickets a day into a desk drawer. Cartwright says the women could never catch up and continued to throw tickets into the desk drawer, hiding them from supervisors for as long as 90 days. Cartwright says when it was finally discovered, some 3,400 tickets had not been put in the system.

“Unfortunately we found those citations locked up in 2 desks of two ex-employees. Basically we have a spread sheet that we keep for all our data entry to make sure processing and ticket distributing is done fairly among all data entry individuals,” Cartwright explains. “So if I assign you 100, and you come to me at the end of the day and tell me that you inputted 80, what that tells me is that I have 20 I need to redistribute the following day. But what it doesn’t take into account, is that you didn’t tell me the truth and you sand bagged 15 today and you made the same poor decision the next day and sand bagged another 20 and it snowballs and there is your 3,000 tickets,” Cartwright says.

Cartwright tells me that the bureau has implemented a scanning system to prevent this from happening again.

“Every citation that comes into the clerk’s office, we scan. And I give you 100, and now if you say you did 80, and you didn’t, I ask where they are. This is a safeguard.”

Cartwright tells me that the two women have been terminated. I ask about criminal prosecution, and he says there is none.

According to Cartwright all the tickets have been inputted into the system. Letters are going out to each of the 3,400 motorists advising them there was a problem and they now have 45 days to decide what action they want to take.

“They are not being penalized,” Cartwright says. “They have same opportunity to take care of their ticket that they would have had they been updated in a timely manner.”

Cartwright says the defendants can either plead guilty and pay the fine, plead guilty and go to driving school, or they can plead not guilty and demand their day in court.

As far as the future, Cartwright says the department is going paperless which should make embarrassing situations like this one almost impossible.

“We are piggy backing with the police department. It is called ARMS and any Citation you get, will be electronic. We won’t deal with paper. That traffic stop will electronically be sent to the data base. We won’t handle it in the future.”

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