City of New Orleans sending refund checks to over 9,000 drivers for wrongfully issued tickets

Updated: Feb. 11, 2021 at 3:22 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A New Orleans Inspector General report found the City of New Orleans improperly issued school zone tickets for a decade.

The city says it is now correcting and sending checks out this week for tickets that should not have been issued dating back to 2008. In a statement to FOX 8, a city hall spokesperson writes, “Our hope is to have this issue resolved within the next 30 days. We regret the inconvenience and the expense to residents and visitors, and are working quickly to refund as appropriate.”

“The main instance we found when tickets were written improperly were for school zones,” said Interim Inspector General Edward Michel. “When a school had moved, or closed down, or not in session for those days, individuals received tickets improperly.”

Inspectors found the city collected more than $730,000 in improperly issued tickets money due back to over 9,000 drives but instead, the OIG report finds, “the money sat in city bank accounts, and program officials were unaware of the issue because no one was responsible for reading the report on overpayments.”

“I’ve driven by and schools were not even open, or it wasn’t even the correct time and then I get a ticket in the mail,” said delivery driver Joel Brown. He travels every day between Orleans and Jefferson Parish, “a lot of uptown, Magazine Street, St. Charles Avenue, in Metairie, Veterans Boulevard,” Brown adds.

He says over the years, he has paid tickets he’s questioned, “many, it’s just not worth fighting,” he said. “The time and effort on the phone, going to court, it’s just not worth it. You’ll get in more trouble not paying it so just go ahead and pay it.”

Michel says there were times when drivers did fight a paid ticket and got their money back but that was not the case for people who did not know about the issue. “The city kept that money,” Michel said, “but they should have actually refunded the money to the citizens.”

Brown now eagerly awaits a check, “I’d be tremendously happy. I’d have to wait and see because I don’t know if I would really believe, as they say, ‘the checks in the mail.’”

The city previously said the Public Works Department would send letters to each person owed $50 or more.

The interim inspector general says the city responded saying, it now has someone assigned for overseeing school schedules and matching calendars to prevent improper tickets.

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