Cash-Strapped County Failed to Collect $80 Million in Traffic, Parking and Red Light Fines: Audit

The shortage is especially glaring amid recent layoffs and demotions of nearly 300 county workers

An audit of a Long Island county's Traffic and Parking Violations Agency has revealed that authorities failed to collect $80 million in traffic, parking and red light camera fines over 10 years.

There were $44 million in unpaid traffic ticket fines and $26 million in parking fines, according to Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos. In just the past two years, Nassau failed to collect $10 million in red light camera fines.

Maragos said Tuesday his department is changing collection procedures to target unpaid ticket-holders and scofflaws.

But a quick survey of drivers in Nassau County Tuesday revealed what appears to be the biggest problem for the comptroller's office: the perception that the county won't come after them for unpaid fines.

Driver Robert Gordon said he has already received 15 tickets this year and he has not paid any of them.

"They've never come after me for the money," said Gordon. "And I hope they don't now."

Maragos said weak collection policies are to blame: the county typically has not gone after residents until the third violation. One driver even had 50 outstanding tickets.

Now the county will seek out unpaid ticket-holders to try and reclaim some of the money. Most tickets are so old, however, that the county will likely only retrieve a portion of the $80 million.

It's money the cash-strapped county could have used, especially after the recent layoffs and demotions of almost 300 county workers.

"When I get a ticket I pay it," said Karen Nardi of Garden City. "But these people, it's not fair, and that $80 million could probably lessen our taxes."

Nassau County has implemented a new computer system to manage the agency. The computers will now automatically send violation information to the Department of Motor Vehicles to force scofflaws to pay up before getting their licenses or registrations renewed.

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