There was mention here recently of a parking ticket that the District of Columbia contends was issued in 1978 but not paid.
Several readers have responded by telling me they recently received similiar notices, all dating from 1977 and 1978. In each case, the motorist made one of three points:
His auto was not assigned the tag number in question until last year. The notice should have been sent to the person who had that tag number three or four years ago.
The ticket had been paid, and "enclosed you will find a photostat of my canceled check with the ticket number written on it."
The owner of the car never saw the ticket and cannot defend himself against the charge at this late date.
The problem arose when the District's Department of Transportation took several years to computerize its parking ticket records, which were not models of accuracy even before the computerization began.
Phil Brown of Albermarle Street has had difficulty with another branch of the District government; the Office of the Recorder of Deeds.
It is Phil's duty to file the annual report for a nonprofit housing corporation. Failure to file, he has been warned "means dissolution of the corporation."
With this year's annual report, Phil was asked to file a statement changing the name of the corporation's registered agent. He was supposed to send a $1 check with the annual report and a $3 check with the statement of change. He had the bad luck to switch the checks, and thereupon he found himself in a mile of red tape.
Millions of dollars worth of water bills may be sent out a year or two late, thousands of parking tickets may remain in limbo although they are listed as "unpaid" for years, and a $3 check with a report that requires a $1 check may go sailing through without detection, but the $1 check that accompanied the statement of change was challenged at once. Rejected!
Phil sent in a $3 check for the statement of change. Then he phoned the Office of the Recorder of Deeds to make sure his annual report wasn't about to be rejected, too, on the grounds that he had paid too much. He was told to call John Duty, and did. Duty told him to call one of the investigators.
So Phil called and spoke to Investigator A, who said he could find no record of the 1981 report.
When Phil checked with his group's vice president, he said he had hand-delivered the report. It couldn't have been lost in the mail.
Phil called Investigator A again. The investigator took down the name of the group and said he would check into the matter and call back in an hour. He did not call.
Again Phil called Investigator A and was told that the annual report might well have been rejected "for overpayment." He said he would call back in an hour. He didn't.
On the next call to Investigator A, Phil was turned over to Investigator B, who said it was he who had rejected both the annual report and the statement of change. The statement of change had been rejected because it was "incomplete."
Now Phil called his group's president, who dug out the notification that the statement of change was being rejected. The reason given: Incomplete because the check that accompanied it was for $1 instead of $3.
Phil called Investigator B. He was out for the day.
The next day, Phil called again. He was still out.
The next day, Phil called again. See above.
Eventually, Phil reached Investigator B, gave him a complete review of what had happened up to that point and asked whether the nonprofit corporation was in good standing. "He said he had no way of knowing. The resubmissions had not come back to him."
Phil continued to try to find out where his group stood and what, if anything, it ought to be doing to make sure it complied with the law.
"Finally," says Phil, "Investigator B really leveled with me. The reason the report is not on record in the record section is that they are way behind in their work. Sorry, but that's the way the system works. He said, 'Call me back in a couple of weeks and I'll pull the card and see how things stand.' Now do you understand why each spring I feel a tightness in my chest brought on by a fear far greater than that induced by the income tax?"