By Jessica Radesco-Verdi
The College Office of Legal Affairs is refusing to respond reasonably to a request from The College Reporter for information regarding successful parking ticket appeals from the Fall 2010 semester on the Ammerman campus.
“For the time periods Sept. 20, 2010 through Dec. 20 2010, 1,222 citations were issued and 264 appeals were processed through the College’s parking management system. This information is not available in hard copy. Each individual citation and appeal is two pages, and would be print (sic) screen by screen. The cost of the printout is $611.00 (2,444 X $.25)” wrote Office of Legal Affairs Secretary Audrey Trachtenberg in response to a Freedom of Information Letter sent by The College Reporter on Nov. 10.
Upon requesting the mere number of appeals actually granted for that period, “Not unless each one is printed”, thus incurring a charge of $132, was Trachtenberg’s response. In addition, when inquiring if an electronic format or spreadsheet could be a cheaper option, or if a waiver was available for students, “The College does not have a spread sheet of the appeals denied or granted” was also her reply.
“New York law does state public offices can charge up to .25 cents per copy of requested material”, says Frank Lomonte, Executive Director of Student Press Law Center. However, he adds that since the information requested is educational in nature some institutions may waive charges for students or compromise by offering to send it electronically to lessen the cost. Unfortunately SCC law office wasn’t willing to do either.
The number of tickets issued for the current fall semester is 350 to 400 paper citations, said Trachtenberg, who added that no money has been collected to date for those citations.
The SCC website lists the parking violations and fees under traffic and parking regulations section. When a student does receive a summons they have seven days from that date to appeal, which must be done on-line, a determination will then be emailed to the student.
As for the appeal process, according to Baycan Fideli, Director of Fire and Public Safety, says he and the captains sit down and review the cases and assess which ones seem reasonable. “Handicap citations are not debatable.” says Fideli, which have now increased from $50-250. The reason for this is too often finding out these handicap permits are being used improperly and borrowed from others.
Another reason he says he will not tolerate this misuse is “Within the next few years there will be an influx of Veterans returning to college and we will need to accommodate them, we can’t have people who aren’t really in need of these spots taking them away from those who are.”
Fideli also states that contrary to popular belief parking citations aren’t the first priority for the public safety crew. “Crime is our number one priority; dealing with behavioral issues/violence, theft, and hate crimes on campus is our main focus.”
There is a new anti-theft program soon to be implemented on campus called “Lock hide Program” which will encourage students to hide any belongings or electronics and lock their car to deter theft. There will large signs posted around campus to remind all.
Fideli also informs of another plan in the works will be instituting large signs in parking areas labeled with corresponding lot numbers. The purpose is to help students be more easily aware of their vehicle location especially in cases of emergency such as robbery or accidents.
Fideli was unable to provide the number of appeals granted for the requested period stating the information isn’t readily available.
Freedom of information, or “sunshine” laws, requires that government agencies such as public schools and police departments open up to the public most of their official records and meetings. A Freedom of Information in the USA, conducted by IRE and BGA, ranked New York’s law as the 29th worst in the country, giving it a letter grade of “D+”, according to http://www.sunshinereview.org.