Public employees in DC caught stealing from parking garage

| March 13, 2014

Thieving public employees in the nation’s capital are in danger of jeopardizing their standing in public opinion polls that show favorable views among Americans toward local governments. The watchdog unit of local ABC7 News recently uncovered Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) employees illegally parking at the Anacostia Metro train station while ticketing other drivers for infractions.

Anacostia station

The scene of the crime. From Elvert Barnes.

Working off a tip from a viewer who said she received a citation for parking at an expired meter even as Metro employees were leaving their cars for hours and not paying meter fees, the investigative unit of the media group repeatedly visited the small parking lot adjacent to the Anacostia Metro garage, a spot popular among Metro staff. The group noted meters that allow up to 12 hours of parking, but many cars with parking safety vests, hats, and even one police patch on the dashboards were seen parked at meters reading “expired.” ABC7 News saw many of the same cars parked for free during the group’s multiple visits to the garage.

Responding to ABC7 News, WMATA spokesperson Dan Stessel said that, “this is an issue that comes up from time to time and one that requires occasional reinforcement. Employees parking their personal vehicles must comply with all applicable parking fees and regulations.”

But at least one staff member disagrees: “I work for Metro, and I don’t think I should have to pay, period.”

That view rankles other drivers. “They shouldn’t be cheating the system,” said John Joyce. “I have to pay just like anybody else. I’m a paying customer.”

Added Moses Muldrow, “I’m definitely paying to park. They should pay to park.”

The public’s opinion is supported by the WMATA’s own policies. In an internal memo circulated last January and obtained by ABC7 News, the organization told all employees that, “Metro employees must pay the Board-approved parking fees to park personal vehicles at Metrorail stations and Metro parking facilities,” though some staff appeared confused by the policy. One bus driver, when asked by ABC7 reporter Kris Van Cleave why he hadn’t paid the meter, responded that “they give us a parking pass.”

Acknowledging that another rider had complained about the same situation at the Anacostia parking garage, Stessel forwarded the complaint from ABC7 News to Metro transit police who, he said, “will step up patrols at Anacostia to resolve the issue.”

When ABC7 next visited the garage, almost every vehicle owned by a Metro employee who had parked at an expired meter displayed a pink ticket for $25 on the windshield.

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Category: Enforcement, Municipal, Parking management

About the Author ()

Cielo Lutino is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, NY. She has written for such publications as the L Magazine and Portland Monthly, and her literary nonfiction has appeared in journals such as the Los Angeles Review and Cold Mountain Review.

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