Aug. 7, 2014

Officials say Marion Barry got no special treatment over unpaid tickets


City officials say D.C. Council member Marion Barry did not receive special treatment despite his racking up more than $2,800 in outstanding traffic tickets over two years without having his car booted.

“We are equal opportunity,” said Linda Grant, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works. “When our boot crew identifies a vehicle that has two or more outstanding tickets, we will then boot.”

The 78-year-old former mayor had 21 tickets totaling $2,824 in fines on his 2002 Jaguar when he was involved in a wrong-way crash Saturday night. His car was later impounded.

John B. Townsend II of AAA Mid-Atlantic believes it unlikely that an average D.C. driver would be able to get by so long with all those unpaid traffic tickets.

“It wouldn’t happen to the ordinary Joe,” Mr. Townsend said. “Two tickets and you’re out, not even three and you’re out.”

On Tuesday, all of Mr. Barry’s outstanding tickets had been paid, a Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman said. The council member paid $1,779, and the remaining $1,045 was reduced through adjudication.

The violations included $1,460 in eight separate fines for failure to display current tags, five automated-enforcement speeding tickets totaling $684 for driving 11 to 15 mph over the speed limit, and a $150 fine from a red-light camera, according to an online Department of Motor Vehicles database.

Mr. Barry’s spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment Monday and Tuesday.

Ms. Grant said it is possible that Mr. Barry’s car was not booted earlier because the parking tickets were all issued outside of the hours that the boot crews work — from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The latest data available from DPW shows that 8,771 vehicles were booted in the city during the first three quarters of fiscal 2013. The prior fiscal year, a total of 15,409 vehicles were booted.

The city boots vehicles only after tickets have been outstanding for 60 days if the tickets have not been contested.

Some of Mr. Barry’s tickets date back to 2012. The most recent was issued Thursday, while the vehicle was parked in the 1200 block of Talbert Street in Southeast, apparently too close to a fire hydrant.

DMV spokeswoman Vanessa Newton said previously that the agency’s records indicate none of the 21 tickets had been appealed. She also confirmed that Mr. Barry does not have any points assessed to his driver’s license, noting that neither parking tickets nor automated speed enforcement tickets would result in points being added to a license.

To rescue his car from the impound lot, D.C. police indicated Monday that the former mayor would have to pay off all his old fines. The DMV says that vehicle registration and tags must be up to date before a vehicle can be released from a city impound lot. It was unclear if Mr. Barry had taken care of all those outstanding issues on Tuesday.

The Ward 8 Democrat was taken to a hospital late Saturday after he drove a vehicle into oncoming traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue in Southeast and struck a car. Mr. Barry, who is diabetic, said he suffered a “hypoglycemic attack” and became disoriented.

After the crash, police gave Mr. Barry with three additional citations — driving against traffic, expired tags and lack of insurance.

This is hardly the first time Mr. Barry has racked up unpaid traffic tickets.

The Washington Post in 2011 exhaustively documented the tortured history of Mr. Barry’s Jaguar, which included hundreds of dollars in unpaid fines, the car twice having been booted and once stolen, and its having displayed “inactive” tags that originally were assigned to a black BMW the former mayor formerly drove.

The outstanding fines currently detailed by the District’s DMV were issued after The Post’s expose and are dated between February 2012 and July.