Hagins didn't think his ticket would go that far, because he didn't count on hitting a BAA wall of indifference.
The nonsense started on Oct. 20, 2010, when he received a $301 ticket (written by a 22nd District police officer) for parking in front of 1030 W. York St. - a spot, the ticket indicated, reserved for residential handicapped parking.
In truth, the space in front of 1030 is not designated that way. The houses on either side of it, though - 1028 and 1032 - have handicapped spots, and signs indicate as much.
"There are four poles marking the spots, and it can be confusing when you first look at it," says Hagins, a theater artist. "But there's definitely a legal spot in between them. People park there all the time."
Hagins says that when he appealed the ticket to the BAA the following May (that's how long it took to get a hearing), the examiner pronounced as insufficient the photos Hagins brought to the hearing to make his case. So Hagins went back to York Street, shot video with his cellphone and brought it to a second hearing on June 23.
I've looked at the video. It's no high-def masterpiece. Still, if you take two minutes to examine it closely, it's clear that the space at 1030 W. York is legit.
Hagins says that the hearing examiner gave the video only a glance before declaring Hagins' ticket valid. Hagins then asked for a supervisor, who, he claims, ignored the video and upheld the examiner's decision.
That left Hagins with one option: to appeal the ticket to the Court of Common Pleas, within 29 days, for a filing fee of $184.
Hagins admits that he missed the filing deadline, due to the death of his sister. Her passing required him to spend weeks out of town, managing her affairs.
Failing to appeal is regarded as an admission of guilt. So Hagins is on the hook for the $301 fine, plus accrued late fees of $45.
"I can't afford it," says Hagins. "I'll have to ask a lawyer friend to help me out here."
You know what makes me nuts?
The PPA - located a short hallway away from the BAA - has access to a database of all residential handicapped-parking permits. One click would show that Hagins' ticket was in error.
But the BAA, says spokesman Jerry Connors, does not have access to that database and is not really interested in acquiring it.
"The ticket is prima facie evidence of a violation, and it's up to the respondent to prove that it is invalidly issued, so we evaluate [decisions] based on what is presented to us at the hearing," he said.
But given the size of the fine, couldn't the hearing examiner at least call over to the PPA and ask for a database look-see, in the interest of kindness? Because sometimes ticketing mistakes happen and it's unjust to expect the public to pay for them?
I get that the BAA is busy. But real lives are upended in real ways by the power that the BAA wields. Doesn't anyone understand that?
At least the Police Department was responsive to an email that Hagins sent, alerting the department to the confusing parking on York Street.
The e-mail "is being forwarded to the Commanding Officer of the 22nd Police District for . . . action," the response read. "They will be able to make police personnel aware of the parking situation and evaluate it."
If only the BAA were as interested in being helpful.
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