Suozzi, Rice Bust Ticket-Fixing Scheme at County’s TPVA

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Six County Workers Fired

Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi has announced the firing of six employees at Nassau’s Traffic and Parking Violations Agency (TPVA) for fixing over 100 tickets for themselves, their families and their friends. These actions cost the county and state up to $25,000 in lost revenue.

“There remains a zero-tolerance for waste, fraud and abuse in this Administration. How dare these workers betray the public’s trust? They’re out of here today,” said Suozzi.

“What’s clear here is that there was a line for those with connections and a line for the average Joe. To me this is more than just waste, fraud and abuse. I think this betrayal of the public trust is criminal and I’m going to do everything I can to prove it,” said Rice.

“These employees collectively manipulated the computer system and court calendars to interfere with TPVA operations. This scheme resulted in the lengthy delay of court proceedings, dismissal of tickets, elimination of fines and surcharges that would have been owed to the county and the state, and in one case, the generation of a refund to a defendant who had already paid his fine,” explained Suozzi.

According to TPVA Executive Director Patricia Reilly, around the first week of March of this year, she thought that several employees “might be manipulating the system to dismiss tickets without judicial process” and met with Deputy County Executive for Public Safety, Francis X. Ryan and notified members of the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office.

Immediate actions were taken to further tighten administrative procedures and monitor computers to deter any further incidents. Computer access, adjournment policies and dismissal rules were all strengthened.

“We believe that the new procedures instituted earlier this year did work to prevent any further ticket-fixing,” said Reilly.

Reilly, a veteran of almost 30 years of government service and a former Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles said, “I have never seen such a gross misuse of public trust than I saw in these cases. These were people that I worked with and trusted. It’s like a dagger in my heart…They have lost their moral compass.”

Suozzi stated the following regarding the results of the investigations:

“Angela Petty, a clerk, improperly used the computer system to make changes in cases relating to her relatives and/or friends. She changed the plea status of cases, altered times on cases and even dismissed cases. She also removed fines/surcharges from the computer system. The tickets included allegations of both moving and non-moving violations, including uninspected vehicles, driving without a license, uninsured vehicles and parking offenses.

“Celia Capozzoli, a clerk, altered case records in the computer system on cases relating to her son. These alterations included moving case dates and case dismissal. The tickets involved both moving and non-moving violations including speeding, running a red light, no seat belt, unreasonable speed and parking offenses.

“Mary Green, a secretary, accessed the computer system to make changes to the status of tickets and case proceedings that related to her nephew. The changes including delaying the case for up to three years and also dismissing charges and eliminating all fines and surcharges in a case that had been adjudicated by the traffic court. These tickets included moving and non-moving allegations including speeding, unreasonable speed, driving on the sidewalk, uninsured vehicle, driving the wrong way down a one-way street, equipment violations and parking offenses.

“Roseanna Alveari, a clerk, entered the system to review files relating to tickets issued to her son. A review of the case records indicate that although Ms. Alveari’s son had certain matters dismissed by the court, no appearance – on the case record – was made by the defendant. The defendant also seems to have received lenient treatment by receiving dismissals in the interest of justice that would not, according to TPVA prosecutors, have been warranted in light of the driver’s significant DMV record.

“Priscilla Jordan, a keyboard operator improperly dismissed numerous summonses against herself, her daughter and her friend. These included unlicensed operation, no insurance, no registration, running a stop sign and parking offenses. Ms. Jordan is alleged to have misled the court system in a case involving an uninspected car by “purchasing” the uninspected car from her friend changing the plates on the car, then inspecting the car and producing the inspection to show that the car was, in fact, an inspected vehicle. Ms. Jordan altered status dates in the system in order to keep postponing matters. Additionally, the friend’s adjudication for illegally using a cell phone while driving was vacated in the computer system, the fines were deleted and a refund was issued to him by TPVA.

“Joseph Butindari, an assistant director, used his position to help his niece and his brother. Those tickets involved moving and non-moving violations. Mr. Butindari monitored these dismissals by accessing the cases in the system the same day that each case was dismissed. These cases included speeding tickets, running a stop sign and parking tickets issued to Mr. Butindari himself. In the speeding ticket matter, the record states that the ticket was defective, but a review of the ticket by two prosecutors, including the TPVA chief prosecutor, shows no infirmity with the ticket. Mr. Butindari had two parking tickets issued to his vehicle and both were dismissed with no evidence of any appearance by the defendant before the hearing court.”

Suozzi also announced additional safeguards being put in place at TPVA to prevent any further abuse of the system. “There are approximately 800 tickets dismissed per week. I want a full accounting on each and every ticket,” he said.

Additional safeguards:

• When a ticket is presented for dismissal-on-production, the Judicial Hearing Officer must review the documentation and, if dismissed, the Judge must personally initial the ticket

• Electronic “footprints” have been created so that any action taken by any employee on the computer will be tracked

• Once per week, every dismissal will be hand-reviewed by TPVA senior staff

The Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency (TPVA) is authorized to collect parking and traffic ticket fines and to pursue past due collections. TPVA also conducts hearings for traffic and parking infractions.

TPVA processed over 300,000 tickets last year and collected almost $28 million in fines. The County received $17.5 million, the State, $8.5 million and the balance, $1.5 million to local municipalities.

TPVA serves more than 800 people a day at the agency and another 700 per day over the phone and on-line.

Suozzi stated the following are the fired employees’ start-dates and salaries:

• Angela Petty started May 27, 2005; Salary: $37,580 (CSEA)

• Celia Capozzoli started June 6, 2005; Salary: $34,450 (CSEA)

• Mary Green started October 13, 1995; Salary: $51,682

• Roseanna Alveari started on May, 18, 2001 with County Health Dept. and came to TPVA in 2002; Salary: $54,939 (CSEA)

• Priscilla Jordan started April 2, 2001; Salary: $38,318 (CSEA)

• Joseph Butindari started June 29, 2004; Salary: $97,000

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