WARREN - Municipal Court Judge Thomas Gysegem said there has been some ''negligence'' in monitoring parking ticket fines, and police are aware of the matter because he's brought it their attention.
Police Chief Eric Merkel said he intends to address the concerns brought up by the judge with the city's Law Department.
Gysegem began asking questions after issues with converting delinquent parking ticket cases in 2009 became known recently. It was that year that the court took control over parking tickets from a company in Michigan which had the contract with the city to handle parking tickets since about 1999, Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa said.
When the switch happened, Warren Redevelopment and Planning, which at that time had the parking monitoring contract, gave the court a list of tickets it had from the company so those cases could be put into the court system.
The process didn't get very far, though, because people who received notice from the court complained they already had paid their fines, said Clerk of Courts Peggy Scott, who stopped the process and handed the report back to WRAP sometime in 2010.
Scott could not say how much money was due from the report.
WRAP Director Anthony Iannucci Jr. said the list given to the court was given to WRAP by the company in Michigan. Iannucci said the monitoring contract WRAP got in 2007 called for WRAP to provide two-person coverage at the Franklin Street parking deck and two parking enforcement officers for the downtown.
Gysegem said, ''When somebody comes in and they show a receipt and that is more than one person and they say, 'Hey, I paid for this' and we got a list that says you didn't, of course I'm going to believe the receipt, believe the individual. The individual is always given the benefit of the doubt in the justice system.''
The disputed tickets, Gysegem said, ''casts a cloud over the list.''
The judge said its conceivable the Bureau of Criminal Investigation or the Ohio Auditor's Office may be called upon if an investigation is begun.
Cantalamessa said the company in Michigan's contract called for it to collect the fine money mailed to it by ticketed motorists, keep a portion for doing so and remit the rest to Warren. For those who didn't pay, the company would mail a notice urging them to make good or the fine would increase.
''That was the extent of what they were required to do under the contract,'' said Cantalamessa, adding there was ''no further enforcement or collection mechanism in place.''
In 2009, when the court took over the responsibility, Cantalamessa said the court, too, would send a letter and if the ticket remained delinquent, it would ultimately be turned over to a collections agency.
Cantalamessa said he's not aware of delinquent amounts that have been forgiven and collection rates for delinquent tickets rarely, if ever, are 100 percent.
From 1999 to 2009, the only cases that came before the court were contested tickets, the ''vast majority'' of which were motorists cited with a handicapped parking violation, Gysegem said. In most cases, the motorist forgot to display their placard.
''If that was the case and they could prove they had a sticker issued to them, I would find them not guilty,'' Gysegem said.