U.S. District Court judge here yesterday agreed to delay for a week his order blocking the federal government from continuing to collect parking fees from its employees so that the case could be taken to an appeals court.
Judge Harold H. Greene ruled Tuesday that the government's pay-for-parking program was illegal and immediately ordered the government to stop any further collection of fees. Greene said the program was designed to reduce energy consumption and therefore should have been approved by Congress before it was implemented by former president Carter in November 1979.
Yesterday, Greene said he would postpone the effective date of his order for five days to give the government time to go to the federal appeals court here to ask it to permit fees to be collected until the high court reviews the legality of the program. Greene denied a request for an extended delay of his order yesterday.
The fee program, which affects about 75,000 federal workers in Washington and 350,000 nationwide, was challenged in court by the American Federation of Government Employees.
Attorneys said Green's ruling yesterday means that the "normal practice" for collecting parking fees from federal employes would be in effect for the five-day period beginning Monday.
Following Greene's decision Tuesday holding that the parking program is illegal, the U.S. Attorney's office here asked him to allow the government to continue collecting fees until the federal appeals court had a chance to review the case. In court papers, the government said it was collecting $1.5 million to 1.8 million a month in parking fees, for annual revenues of $1.8 million to $2.16 million.
The government contended that unless Greene allowed the fees to be collected while the case was in the appeals court -- often a lengthy process -- federal agencies, which had planned their budgets relying on that income, would have to absorb the losses.
Moreover, the government said, if it won its case in the court of appeals and Greene's decision was reversed, it would be difficult to collect fees that had accumulated while the case was in the courts.
In a brief written opinion issued yesterday, Greene said that the $1.5 to $1.8 million collected monthly sum" in terms of the nation's revenues and that it was "difficult to believe" that the loss of that money "could have any detectable budgetary impact." The claim that the accumulated fees would be hard to collect amounts to speculation, Greene said, which even if true would amount only to "administrative inconvenience" and a loss of some funds.