FOX13 Investigates: City Losing Millions In Unpaid Parking Tickets

FOX13 Investigates: Millions in unpaid parking tickets

Memphis, TN — 100 people owe the city of Memphis $300,000 in unpaid parking tickets.

That money could be used for community centers, neighborhood improvement, even paying police officers.

The City Clerk’s office said nearly 8,000 people have three or more unpaid tickets, and they collectively owe the city millions of dollars.

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But when FOX13 pressed city leaders for answers, there was confusion about who was in charge of making sure the city collects its millions.

“They got to be throwing them away the tickets, because they ain't paying them,” said Patricia Jackson, who lives in Memphis.

Most Memphians park legally, but thousands treat feeding the meter like a suggestion. FOX13 obtained a list showing the hundreds of tickets the top offenders have avoided.

City Clerk Kay Robilio is in charge of collecting and keeping track of the money for those tickets.

“If you had to estimate how much money is floating out there right now, could you put it in a ball park?,” asked FOX13’s Zach Crenshaw.

“I don't know that we want to do that. It's so frightening,” said City Clerk Kay Robilio.

“It is tens of millions of dollars,” said Joseph Eberle, Chief Deputy with the City Court Clerk.

The problem is only getting worse. The City Court Clerk’s office is in charge of collecting the cash from tickets and other violations.

“We have multiple letters sent out, multiple post cards, [and] phone call banks,” said Clerk Robilio, when explaining the ways in which the city encourages people to pay.

That's where their leverage ends though, according to the clerk. Robilio said her office cannot knock on doors or incentive payment with other tactics.

“[Booting and towing] is entirely up to the discretion of the police department,” said Robilio.

Towing is low on the city’s priority list though.

“There are only two officers authorized to do it right now,” said Deputy Clerk Eberle.

“Right now we are down hundreds of officers and we have to prioritize what we do. We are prioritizing violent crime,” said Mayor Jim Strickland.

Mayor Strickland and Clerk Robilio are not on the same page when it comes to how the city collects cash from tickets.

“It has always been the [City] Court Clerk who has primary responsibility,” said Mayor Strickland.

“If [MPD] would focus on that a little bit I think we would get a better job done of getting them to the table to pay their fines,” said Eberle.

FOX13’s Zach Crenshaw went all over Memphis to track down some of the top offenders. Many of them had moved.

“It’s a challenge sometimes because people change addresses,” said Clerk Robilio.

FOX13 did talk to David Moore. According to the City Court Clerk’s list, Moore has racked up 15 unpaid and owes $3,400 in fines.

Moore said there is no way the list is correct.

“I paid some [tickets] like six months ago…like $800 worth,” said Moore.  “I got a letter in the mail that said this is what I owe for these tickets and I paid it so I didn't get my license suspended.”

Memphis city leaders know they need to do more to cut down the list and recuperate money for the city’s general fund. Mayor Strickland told FOX13 he is going to work on a solution.

“I would certainly be willing for our office, city government, to sort of partner with the [City] Court Clerk and say ‘Hey, let's sue these people, and take them to court to try and collect these fines.’ If the City Court Clerk is having trouble doing it,” said Mayor Strickland.

If the Mayor’s office, City Clerk and MPD can get on the same page, it will be good news for the city's bottom line.

Not so much for one man in Drummonds. He might be out more than $13,000.

In addition to suing people and garnishing wages, Mayor Strickland talked about the need to partner with private towing companies to send a message and also free up MPD officers for patrols and violent crime.

The City Clerk’s office said they’re continuing to look for new ways to incentive people to pay. Recently staff members went up to Nashville to learn how the state capital dings offender’s credit scores when they do not pay their tickets.