CBS4 Investigation Reveals $1M In Questionable Parking Tickets

Denver Officials Admit Validity Of Tens Of Thousands Of Tickets Now Under Review

Written by Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4) – The Denver Public Works Department and Denver City Attorney’s Office are scrutinizing as many as 40,000 to 50,000 parking tickets, worth more than $1 million, that may have to be recalled after a CBS4 Investigation found parking agents who handed out the tickets had no legal authorization to do so.

“If the city attorney tells us to do that yes, that’s what we may have to do,” said George Delaney, the manager of Denver Public Works, which employs 58 vehicle control agents or VCAs.

Each vehicle control agent is legally required by the city to have a current, valid appointment from Denver’s Manager of Safety before they can enforce parking violations. The appointments, which designate the employees as “Special Police Officers,” are in force for two years before they need to be renewed. The authorization gives the parking agents the powers to hand out citations for everything from expired meters to street sweeping violations.

“We do require VCAs to have that in possession at all times along with their identification,” Delaney said.

But the CBS4 investigation found Vehicle Control Agent Paul Lucero, who was hired in 2010, never received an appointment as a special police officer. Queried by CBS4 about Lucero’s status, Mary Dulacki, records coordinator for Denver’s manager of safety said, “We do not have an appointment for Paul Lucero.” But he was put out on the streets anyway, from August 2010 through October 2010, to write tickets. One vehicle control agent told CBS4 Lucero was likely churning out between 50 to 100 tickets a day.

Public Works and other city agencies began looking into Lucero’s authority to write tickets after learning about it from the CBS4 investigation.

“Because he never received an appointment,” Delaney said, “he should never have been on the street.”

Through the Colorado Open Records Act, CBS4 obtained copies of parking citations Lucero wrote in August of 2010, even though he lacked the legal authority.

CBS4 also found another vehicle control agent, William Shirland, who wrote tickets for two full years after his authority had expired. According to records obtained by CBS4, Shirland’s appointment as a special police officer expired Jan. 1, 2009. But tickets obtained by CBS4 show Shirland was still writing them in December 2010 — nearly two years later — even though his certification had long since lapsed.

Parking management sources say Shirland was a prolific ticket writer, putting out as many as 200 citations a day for street sweeping violations. Over the course of two years it’s estimated he may have written 40,000 tickets without the required legal authority to do so.

Between Shirland and Lucero, the pair may have written roughly 50,000 tickets worth a minimum of $1.25 million.

Delaney was asked, “You may have to void thousands of tickets and refund the money?”

“It would be a substantial amount of money, yes it would,” Delaney said.

Delaney said his agency is currently sorting through all the questionable tickets trying to figure out exactly how many there are and how much money the city might have to refund. He says Public Works is waiting for a legal opinion from the Denver city attorney on the validity of the tickets before determining its next step.

“Then we will act accordingly. We will advise people if those are not valid tickets, we will do so and take whatever steps are necessary as they dictate,” Delaney said.

Greg Rawlings, a former Denver city attorney for 5 1/2 years, now in private practice, reviewed the records gathered in the CBS4 Investigation.

“I don’t see they have a leg to stand on. How could they be valid at all? These people had no authority to give you a ticket. There are thousands of people who paid a bunch of money to the city and they should get their money back,” Rawlings said.

Rawlings said the tickets that were written by people with no current legal authority aren’t worth the paper they were written on.

“They’re bogus. How could they be otherwise? I see nothing in the City Charter or code that gives these people the right to do this. Someone dropped the ball big time,” Rawlings said.

Rawlings said he expects the City Attorney’s Office to argue against refunding any money and voiding tickets on two fronts: That anyone who paid a ticket was admitting guilt, and therefore deserved the ticket. Or he suggested that the city attorney might argue that if they were given a ticket, they had violated the law, even if the person citing them was not legally authorized.

“I think you have to go into the database, pull every one, find out who paid and give them their money back. They’re going to write some checks; they have to write some checks. It’s the only thing that’s fair. This is plain as day. It’s time for them to do the right thing on this,” Rawlings said.

Rawlings indicated a class action lawsuit might loom if the city balks at issuing refunds.

Both vehicle control agents, Shirland and Lucero, have now been taken off the streets and reassigned to other jobs that do not involve handing out tickets.

Additional Resources

The below link contains the following in this order:

— A typical citation written by Vehicle Control Agent Paul Lucero in 2010, even though he never received authorization to write tickets
— The Official Appointment as a Special Police Officer for William Shirland, which expired January 1, 2009
— One of as many as 40,000 tickets Shirland wrote in the two years after his authorization expired

View the PDF file here

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  • Bob

    Proof that parking tickets are big money in Denver. A very good reason to NOT park on the street in Denver. Plenty of people get tickets all the time for things they didn’t do, but have no way to prove otherwise, and have no choice other than paying money to the city. It’s not about Public Safety. It’s about REVENUE.

    • mkdenver1

      Or, you can park at a meter and make sure you return to your car BEFORE the meter expires!

      What is so difficult to understand about this? You park at a meter. It expires before you go back. That’s a violation. You pay a fine. No excuses!

      • Michelle

        Actually – there have been many times where I have received a ticket for something that I didn’t even know was a law – must park 24″ from corner (I was parked 23″ – they carry tape measures) or if I was parked too far from curb (must be within 16″) of curb despite a big muddy mess. So, it’s not always as black and white as you would think…..

    • Parking downtown

      Thank you CBS4 for doing a great job! I think these type of investigations are about the only way to expose these type of discrepancies.

      Seems the employees at Denver County Court Parking Magistrate’s office are also trained to be rude and unhelpful when you try to argue your ticket!

  • Josh

    If you did something wrong, like parking illegally, then you deserve to get a ticket. Right-and-wrong and the law are not always the same. Anyone who expects to get their money back after doing something wrong is gaming the system.

    • Dusty

      If you do something illegal, like write thousands of phony parking tickets, you deserve to be arrested, not merely “reassigned.”

      Furthermore, if I saw your meter was ten minutes past and wrote you a parking ticket, you wouldn’t have to pay it, because tickets I write don’t carry the force of law behind them. Same story with these two clowns, except the city was complicit in their phony ticket writing scam.

      • Freedom Fighter

        Maybe you should take another look at the article, and read it a little more careful..these men weren’t violating any law and shouldn’t be arrested!They were doing their job! Its sounds like a good job at that! The people who weren’t doing their job are the people who sent them out there on the streets! If anyone should have to take any heat and have their name blasted on the news is their supervisors!

  • Caitlin

    Who is to blame for all of this? The public was in an uproar when the previous story pertaining to the Enforcement Offcers aired on another Denver news channel, so what now? Two more Right of Way employees find themselves in the headlines, but have these two been fired? been arrested? NO! They have been given different positions within Public Works, but the other two? Fired! Arrested! The management in the department needs to be held accountable for the actions of the employees. The employees are doing as they are told per management, yet management isn’t held responsible for any of this. Who allowed Lucero & Sherlin to be on the street still? Who wasn’t doing their job? Whoever it was needs to be held responsible-their job taken away just like the other two Enforcement Officers who lost their jobs. If those two gentlemen lost their jobs and were throwin in jail simply over speculation, the management responsible for allowing Lucero & Sherlin to keep their positions need to be adequately penalized.

    And how about background checks on Supervisors and above? Hiow is the department going to feel when it hits the media that their own management personnel have criminal backgrounds? Not speculation that could possibly lead to a felony, but actual convicted criminals working in their deparment? These criminals, per City and County guideline, should not be carrying a Special Police Badge, But there they are, still sitting in the office, working every day. They are allowed to keep their badge, criminal record and all. But two gentlemen, fired and arrested after media uproar, have their badges taken away over pure speculation.

    So City management, how do you get off offering Lucero and Sherlin new positions, but not the other two gentlemen? Looks like the corruption starts at the top! The only ones to be legitimately charged and arrested for a crime is management. How do you knowingly keep two employees on the street who aren’t supposed to be writing tickets? Management needs to be justly punished for their part in this corruption.

    • Freedom Fighter

      You bring up valid points about the corruption that is taking place and YES the management in the department needs to be held accountable for the employees (their supervisors and the people at the top) obviously if Lucero and Sherlin were NOT ARRESTED and still hold positions it’s because they were simply doing their job! Management needs to be held accountable and I think Lucero and Sherlin deserve an apology for having to be singled out when they were only doing their jobs.The only reason their names are being put in the media because they were unauthorized but is it their fault? NO, it’s the people who allowed this to take place!

  • Mike

    I received a notice in the mail that a ticket I never received was overdue. I wrote a letter stating, accurately, that I had never parked in the location indicated on the ticket. I received a written response that the ticket was valid but the fine would be reduced from $50 to $25. The only thing I admitted by paying the $25 is that the time I would spend fighting this bs is worth more than $25. Crooks.

    • Freedom Fighter

      Its a shame the city is going to lose money and repay these people for violating the law but the only crooks are those in charge THE MANAGEMENT! But yet we dont see those peoples face or names in the news.

  • Freedom Fighter

    Thats a hard working meter maid! 50 to 100 tickets a day!

  • Damskippy

    Wow, he did work hard. Probably not part of a union.

    • Freedom Fighter

      Its seems like one of the hardest working meter maids out there and the crime was not being authorized but whos to blame..not him! THOSE WHO LET HIM ON THE STREETS!

  • Michi

    Nice job, Brian Maass and CBS 4. Maybe this lax oversight was part of the reason those two jerks thought they could issue a “Retribution Ticket” a short time ago.

    Pretty bad when it takes “Trial by Press” to get government to do their jobs correctly.

    • Freedom Fighter

      The only jerks are the people who put this story out there putting the blame on these two men, when in reality the people to blame is the mangement! If these men were not fired there must be a reason for that, probably because they were doing their job and obviously a good job to be writting that many tickets!

  • Jefe

    My daughter got a ” no license plate” ticket and had a license plate! And! Had to pay it… I wonder how many times they step over the line?

    • SDK

      I had the same problem. However, I protested it and it was dismissed. But the got me for a $50 bill because I had parked in front of my own driveway.. Greed that’s all it is.

  • mkdenver1

    It is pretty bad when it takes a TV station to get the government to figure out what’s going on.

    At least the City is going to make it good by refunding the money. Hopefully it’s a lesson learned to make sure the folks issuing tickets are legally authorized to do so.

    Another tip, and this is exactly what I mentioned before, if you do not want to pay a fine RETURN TO YOUR CAR BEFORE THE METER EXPIRES!!! Some people just do not understand this concept. Personally, I would much rather spend $2 to park for a short time downtown rather than paying a $25 fine for letting my meter expire! But, I guess moving your car, or putting more money in, is too much to ask for some people and they would much rather blame the city for letting the meter expire.

    • Parking downtown

      Don’t forget to move your car after the two hour limit expires….otherwise, they’ll ticket you for that too!

  • Steve

    Denver is a greedy city! The person in charge of Parking should be fired. Their salary is nothing compared to what the city will hav to pay back. Someone should be held accountable for this one.

  • Jon

    I’d start checking animal control citations, too. I worked there six years and can’t recall EVER renewing my SPecial Police appointment.

  • Bissell

    Tina Scardina is one of the managers 720-913-1725 . we can go to the source and ask about her negligence . why she put them out there knowing full well of there situation why she authorized it . Dont know why George Delaney is even being questioned he just took over recently for Bill vidalle or we can ask Rob duncanson . but they wont talk they’ll let there employees be publicly humiliated while they hide behind there office doors. bottom line you the managment owe your department, city,and employees an apology . Its managment who owes the citizens millions . Lets see who gets disciplined now .. The city needs to do away with there quotas and focus on the customer service of the job and go back to a time where you where there for the public not revenue.

  • Denise

    Denver is a greedy city and to generate revenue and to reach their quotas a couple months ago agents were going through the Green Valley Ranch neighborhood issuing tickets to vehicles without front plates attached etc. all in the name of revenue/money

  • Enough

    How more corrupt can this state be… thanks to the private atty that caught this… now let’s wait to see what the district attorney will do…

  • bissell

    None the public out cry isnt that loud thats the way the city works..All management have been in a meeting preparing for there excuse all morning trying to C.Y.A lmao I hope they air this story again tonight

  • Archibald Leach

    I bet Shirland and Lucero would be great Animal Control officers too. Get a REAL job!

    • Freedom Fighter

      Sounds like they were doing their job, 1 MILLION DOLLARS worth of tickets! If you break the law pay the Consequences and stop complaining! The law is the law!But I bet they would be great at Animal Control!

  • Monica Thomas

    Once again this shows the way management at the City fails to have any checks and balances as they say. But what really upsets me is how much of this kind of stuff went on under our then Mayor Hickenlooper who we now have elected to be Governor when this clearly shows how bad he was of a Mayor. Why was none of this brought out until after he was elected? Both the Governor and Mayor should be held accountable for these kind of scams while they are in office. I would like to see this information be out in the news more and then have Hickenlooper answer for this. He stunk as a Mayor and now he is Governor no wonder we are headed in the wrong direction.

  • Dave

    I have searched the Denver Revised Municipal Code for “Vehicle Control Agent” and “Special Police” and found nothing that says that ticket writers have to have a special appointment to Special Police Offficer. In fact, i found that the ordinances state that ANY City Employee may write a parking ticket and serve it. Ha!

  • bissell

    Great news, Dave. Well I hope the City’s Manager of Saftey is aware of this, seeing as four people have been removed from their positions, and according to your findings, they have been removed for no reason. Seeing as they don’t need a badge, were they removed due to personal vendetta on the part of the management? The management is quick to give an interview when their employees are the ones under the microscope, but now that it’s them under fire, where’s the interview? Ann Williams was more than eager to give an interview about the disgrace dispalyed by the two employees who were first terminated, so when can we expect our interview about the disgrace caused by the management of the department? It’s easy enough to blame your employees, but it’s time that the management step up and admit their own wrong doings.

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