We are promised equal justice under the law, but that promise is not always kept by the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication, the place where you go to appeal tickets written by the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
That’s what Lois DelSpechio-Janke found when she went to the bureau’s office on Filbert Street this month to fight $182 worth of tickets.
Our story opens on the morning of June 28 with an accident in South Philly. The 2016 Nissan Rogue owned by Lois’ daughter Grace was parked on 13th Street between Reed and Wharton when an off-duty police officer drove into it. Grace’s car spent three weeks in the shop. The cop’s insurance paid for the $4,500 in repairs and even for a loaner car for Grace.
So far, so good.
Lois and her husband, Tom, and Grace each own a car, and each bought a city parking permit that enables on-street parking.
Grace’s loaner car was a Jeep. “We copied the parking permit and posted in her window along with a note,” says Lois.
Then came seven tickets on the Jeep, totaling $182.
Lois, 50, is a sales assistant for a wealth management company and is well-organized. So when she arrived at the bureau, her documents in hand, she expected to win.
She did not.
“I was treated unfairly — and quite frankly, I believe, discriminated against — for being a white professional woman,” says Lois.
Let’s go to the tape.
I listened to the recording of her appeal, taken by senior hearing officer Iris Mendez, who has been at the bureau for almost 14 years.
The first half of the 10-minute hearing was entirely civil:
Lois explained the situation: her daughter’s car in the shop, the loaner, the copied permit and the note.
Mendez told Lois she was not allowed to use a copy. Lois repeated why she did it and Mendez repeated it is not permitted. No one raised a voice, but I could hear the tension.
Lois was pleasant until the end, when she thanked Mendez sarcastically, leading Mendez to say Lois was trying “to get a rise out of me.” I didn’t hear disrespect, but that might be in the ear of the beholder.
Here’s why Lois thinks she got jobbed: One year earlier, her husband’s truck got hit while parked and he got a loaner that he parked on his street with a copy of his parking permit. Same situation, but the examiner dismissed the charges.
So, Tom gets off, but Lois gets slammed. Life is like that sometimes.
Lois admits she expected the same outcome as Tom. “I could not find any other procedure on the PPA website where this is described or explained,” she says. She has filed an appeal.
Bureau spokesman Jerry Connors told me Thursday that “the matter is still under appeal and it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time.”
I think Lois was in the wrong, but she does have a valid point.
The Parking Authority’s website doesn’t explain what to do in a case like Lois’, although it does say a one-day parking permit can be bought for $7, a 15-day pass for $15, a month for $30.
Lois is wiser and her purse is lighter.
Maybe her story will encourage the Parking Authority to update its website, to guide people in her situation.