A disabled man has been fighting the city of Newport Beach for more than a year over a ticket he received for parking in a handicapped spot without displaying the proper placard.
According to Torri, who uses a walker, the placard identifying him as disabled fell from view and got lodged under a seat, but the officer decided not to look into the car or ask anyone if they knew the driver.
"I can't see traffic enforcement for Newport Beach being that busy that he couldn't take the time to do something like that for a $430 ticket," Torri said.
Torri is fighting City Hall, where he says he has been met with "intractable" attitudes and a lack of critical thinking.
"They're being hard-nosed," he said.
But according to an email Torri received from Councilman Edward Selich, city staff reviewed Torri's case, with the finance director informing Selich that the city has taken extra measures to assist him:
"My revenue division has provided the details, listed below, of all events to assist Mr. Christopher Torri with his parking citation. In my opinion, the City has provided extra assistance to Mr. Torri to not only lower his initial violation, but also provide him with an administrative hearing with an independent hearing officer (without charge) and individual personal assistance throughout the several month ordeal. The independent hearing officer upheld the City's actions and her findings are also listed for your information below. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions."
Selich also told Torri he received the following summary from city staff, including mention of the ticket being reduced to $43:
"If Mr. Torri is complaining about Citation Number W13714605, Revenue staff is pretty familiar with him. He was issued his ticket by the police department on November 3, 2010. The original violation was for $427.00, for parking in a handicap spot without a placard (California Vehicle Code Section 22507.8(a)), but this amount was later reduced, by the City, to $43.00 on July 13, 2011, for failure to display (NBMC Section 12.46.040). He ignored our request for more information on his original appeal (we needed copies of his placard and ID), but we allowed him to go to review a second time 9which is an exception to our normal procedure), so he could provide that information. Caryl personally walked out to his car with him, photocopied his documents, and brought them back to his car so he wouldn't have to take extra steps.
He was permitted to go through hearing without paying for the citation by signing the indigent waiver form.
The hearing decision was mailed on September 19, 2011. He had 30 days from that date to appeal to Superior Court.
This was the hearing letter mailed to him on September 19, 2011:
Dear CHRISTOPHER TORRI,
An Administrative Hearing took place on 9/19/11 as requested on the citation listed below. The facts presented on the citation in addition to any statements and materials submitted with the Request for Review or presented at the Hearing have been examined by Ms. Sherman. Based upon the facts and information provided, the results are as follows:
Citation number: W137146405 - Issue date: 11/03/2010
The citation was issued because the vehicle was parked in a handicapped space without displaying a placard. Respondent provided a copy of his placard and matching identification card. He testified that the placard fell and got lodged under the seat. He was late for work and did not have time to dislodge it. He placed the identification card on the dashboard. This City, at the first level of review, reduced the penalty from $427.00 to a $43.00 failure to display.
Respondent also testified that it is not fair to impose any fine, when he has a valid placard. According to Respondent, his vehicle is distinctive. He parks in the same area for work every day and finds it hard to believe that the officer did not recognize his vehicle. Respondent provided photographs of City vehicles parked in red zones. He believes that it is unfair for the City to require any penalty from him when its vehicles are illegally parked, as shown in his photographs.
The citation is valid. The handicapped placard must be displayed from the rear view mirror. Possession of a placard is not sufficient to claim a parking privilege. The City has reduced the violation and the penalty with proof that Respondent has a valid placard. Evidence that other vehicles park illegally does not excuse this violation. There is no basis to further reduce the penalty.
Should you be dissatisfied with the outcome of this Administrative Hearing, under California Vehicle Code section 40230, you may seek review of this decision by filing an appeal and paying the applicable filing fees to the court listed below within 30 days of the mailing date of this notice. (10/19/11)
Contact: Superior Court of California, County of Orange
Harbor Justice Center - Laguna Hills Facility
23141 Moulton Parkway
Laguna Hills, Ca 92653"
Selich told Torri: "Although, I probably would have been more sympathetic to your situation if I were the hearing officer it seems to me the $43 fine is a reasonable settlement to the issue and that you were not treated unfairly."
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Still, Torri said he is being penalized for being disabled.
"On a bigger point I was trying to make, every step along the way, I've met with resistance and nobody really listened to what I had to say..." he said. "Going back and forth, for them to figure out what to charge me with...that is arbitrary and totally wrong."
Torri said he is fighting the reduced ticket on principle, because he can see other disabled people running into the same problem with City Hall, and most people don't know how to deal with a person who has a disability.
"They have to make a federal case out of it," he said. "I'm not just going to give in to them roll over whatever you call it."