Every year, about 100,000 Maryland motorists are denied new auto registration stickers for failing to pay parking tickets. In most cases, that obstacle is all it takes to get the fines paid.
But here at the headquarters of Maryland's Department of Economic and Community Development, a 1983 Pontiac has been sitting idle since March 31 because someone didn't pay a Baltimore County parking ticket.
The scofflaw is none other than Frank J. De Francis, who served as secretary of the economic and development agency until December, when he resigned so he could purchase Laurel Race Course. The car is the one assigned to the secretary's office, now occupied by Thomas Maddux.
Neither Maddux nor anyone on his staff has been able to use the blue Pontiac because De Francis, a man of considerable wealth, has not paid for the ticket he got last fall. Maddux, by choice, has been using his own personal car since he took office in January.
"He [De Francis] kept forgetting to pay it," said a laughing agency official who confirmed the story but asked to remain anonymous.
Because the state cannot pay off the ticket, and "no one here wants to spring for the 10 bucks," the car "just sits here in the parking lot," the official said.
The problem, explained the official, is that De Francis is so wealthy, "you tell him he has to pay a $10 ticket, it's like 2 cents in his pocket. The amount is small for anyone, but for him it's not even pocket change."
But apparently the problem is resolved. "We called Frank's secretary," said the official, "because if we just told Frank, the thing will never get paid."
De Francis was out of town and could not be reached for comment -- or for $10.