LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Ron Uchida had to pay $388 to the city of Los Angeles after unsuccessfully fighting a parking ticket.
But after CBS2/KCAL9’s David Goldstein’s investigation, the Burbank man got his money back.
“This was truly a stress factor starting from December when I received the violation and even when I went through the hearing in February,” Uchida recalled.
While Uchida initially lost his fight, what he didn’t know was that he really won.
Traffic hearing officer Joe Kunkaew, who decided Uchida’s case, said he did not want to hold Uchida liable for the citation but was unfairly overruled by his boss.
Kunkaew is not the only traffic hearing officer, who claimed he was pressured into ruling in favor of the city.
Hearing officer, Ernie Nishi, has also come forward, claiming he too was forced to change some of his decisions. “I believe there was a lot of pressure to rule in favor of the city,” he said.
Nishi worked as a Los Angeles traffic hearing officer for 10 years until he left in 2014. He said there was a lot pressure, including one case in particular.
“There’s a veteran, fought for our country, and I had to find him liable,” Nishi recalled.
He said the vet had his car impounded for unpaid parking tickets because he was deployed overseas. The vet fought the tickets. Nishi ruled in his favor but was overruled by his supervisor.
“I had no choice. There’s a procedure. There’s the law. There’s rules. I had to treat him like everyone else. Nothing special,” Nishi added. “But going to war and fighting for our country? Nope, not good enough.”
The Los Angeles Department of Transportation denied that supervisors are unfairly influencing decisions and promised to look into the allegations.
The agency said it has informed its supervisors that they are not allowed to make anyone change their decisions.
“The system to some extent is rigged against the driver,” said Jay Beeber of Safer Streets LA – a group that advocates changes in Los Angeles’ parking system.
He said the process may be rigged because the fate of those fighting parking tickets is decided by a city employee.
“There’s an inherent somewhat conflict of interest between these two entities because they work for the city even though there’s supposed to be independent. Their jobs to some extent are based on whether or not they find people guilty,” Beeber explained.
Uchida had his guilty verdict overturned because of what Goldstein exposed. Now, he got his nearly $400 back and the satisfaction of beating the system, which critics said is stacked against drivers.
If you have a story you think David Goldstein should look into, email Goldsteininvestigates@CBS.com or call (818) 655-2442.