It’s hard to mistake an old London-style taxi for a Dodge, but a D.C. cop patrolling H Street NW in April managed to pull it off. At 4:23 p.m., the officer wrote a $100 ticket for illegally parking in rush hour near Gallery Place.
The best guess is that the officer misplaced a digit or two, and when the ticket wasn’t paid, the Department of Motor Vehicles Adjudication Services office traced the registration to Maplewood, N.J.
That’s when William M. Figdor found that the D.C. government thought his black 1981 taxi from across the Atlantic had been in the District in April, when he himself was in Florida with his family (they got there by airplane, not car).
“I don’t know where H Street is,” Figdor said, having called The Washington Post in a last-ditch effort to escape the fine and reclaim his honor. He appealed to the DMV, and sent in copies of his registration and photos of his car. District officials said a police officer wrote the ticket.
Figdor pleaded his case in a hand-written note dated Aug. 15, oozing with frustration. “It’s a London Taxi!” he scribbled, complete with underlines for emphasis. “The ticket says it’s a Dodge. See picture attached.”
Figdor added points two and three: “This car has never been to Washington DC! Would you drive this old car from NJ to DC?! Not!” He added, “Please remove this erroneous ticket. Thank you very much.”
The DMV was unmoved.
“The respondent did not provide any evidence to support the written statement,” hearing officer D. Matthews wrote Figdor. The DMV did cancel $100 in late fees that had accumulated, but Figdor was still stuck with a $100 bill.
Matthews added: “Respondent’s vehicle has been property identified by vehicle make and tag number. … The respondent is liable. Reconsideration denied.”
Now, parking complaints are hardly uncommon, but we admit to being intrigued by the London Taxi angle. Anyone can mistake a digit or two, and even the folks sending out violation notices on unpaid tickets might not see that the officer wrote “Dodge” and the registration comes back to a London taxi. Maybe they don’t check the registration.
But once an appeal is made pointing out the glaring difference in vehicles, you’d think someone might quickly void the ticket. The Post, in the interest of checking every angle, asked Figdor to send us proof he was in Florida when the ticket was written. He booked a United flight for his wife and two children – a total $958.40 in economy class – from Newark to West Palm Beach, leaving April 3 and returning April 7.
The District says his car was illegally parked in the 600 block of H Street NW on the afternoon of April 4.
Vanessa E. Newton, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, promised to look into the matter, but didn’t promise she could talk specifically about Figdor. She got back to me Tuesday: “There are no further steps for Mr. Figdor. The ticket has been dismissed.”
What? How? Why?
My reading of DMV rules was that to appeal, Figdor would have to pay a fee and pay his ticket, then be reimbursed only if he emerged victorious. Pressed, Newton told me in an e-mail: “It was dismissed on merit based on the information that Mr. Figdor provided.”
But wait, the hearing officer had said the information Figdor provided wasn’t sufficient. The words “reconsideration denied” sounds pretty final. But bureaucracy never seems to be final. Newton elaborated:
“The adjudication process can take up to six months. Mr. Figdor provided documentation to DC DMV on August 15, 2012, and after it was reviewed, the decision was to dismiss the ticket based on merit.”
But Figdor hadn’t yet appealed the hearing officer’s decision. Pressed a final time, Newton seemed to suggest that what happened to Figdor is a perfectly normal part of the process. She said the decision by the hearing officer was made and sent to Figdor before the office received all his information:
“Mr. Figdor mailed his documentation on August 15, 2012. By the time it was received and processed at DC DMV, the decision letter had been mailed out. Once Mr. Figdor’s information was received, it was new evidence; thereby, resulting in the documentation from Mr. Figdor and DC DMV crossing in the email.”
So the hearing officer made his decision before receiving all the information? Maybe the hearing officer got Figdor’s letter before he got the pictures of the taxi, and the registration. Maybe. I didn’t want to press any further. Figdor had scored a victory, maybe with The Post’s help, maybe without, or maybe because the DMV decided that forfeiting a fight over $100 is worth it to avoid bad press.
Either way, justice was served, and Figdor learned that you don’t have to visit the District to feel the full impact of it’s confounding bureaucracy.