Cities look to take parking out of the courts

News Nov 10, 2017 by Bill Jackson Kitchener Post

People who get a parking ticket in Kitchener and Waterloo won’t be able to appeal it through the courts if a new municipal hearing process is implemented, as planned.

Moving to the "administrative monetary penalties system" (AMPS) isn’t a new concept, according to director of bylaw enforcement Gloria MacNeil, who mentioned the proposed changeover during a recent council discussion pertaining to corporate priorities for 2018.

The AMPS approach to deal with parking infractions has already been implemented by other municipalities including Oakville, Burlington and Brampton and is touted as a more streamlined, customer-service-oriented approach that will cuts costs and unclog the provincial court system.

“This gives people the opportunity to come in and resolve that issue the same day potentially,” MacNeil said. “It also reduces the cost of having our officers sit in court all day.”

People are currently waiting months to get a court date with a justice of the peace, she said.

“Right now, we’re in November and we’re not setting court dates until March of next year.”

Under the new approach being proposed, people would be able to come to city hall and speak directly with “screening officers” who would be sourced internally to start.

Screening officers would have the power to reduce or even writeoff a ticket, and if the recipient is still unsatisfied, they’d be able to request an informal hearing with a hearing officer — likely a contracted position shared by both cities.

The benefit to the public is that it’s less formal and less intimidating, MacNeil said.

“They really do get great results through that screening process and very few people ask for a hearing.”

Other municipalities set aside “hearing days” and often have to cancel them because there aren’t any scheduled, she added.

The past two years, Kitchener has received between 800 and 900 parking trial requests annually.

“Right now, I would say the majority of people that come to our counter to request a trial are simply looking to tell their side and wonder if we’ll consider reducing the ticket, but we don’t have the ability to do that right now,” MacNeil said. “It’s frustrating and people don’t want to take a full day off work to potentially go sit at the courthouse all day.”

Some critics argue the quasi-judicial hearing system takes away a person’s right to have their day in court.

In an article published in Paralegal Scope Magazine earlier this year, Stephen Parker, president of the Ontario Paralegal Association (OPA), said, “It denies a person’s right to challenge the allegation of what is now an offence … They are promoting this as a cost-cutting initiative for the municipalities and nothing to do with a person’s right to face their accuser.”

The “First Attendance” program used by the City of Cambridge gives people the chance to talk to an assistant first and book an appointment to challenge their ticket at city hall. However, if they don’t like the result, they can still file an appeal through the courts.

Shayne Turner, Waterloo’s director of municipal enforcement services, said the AMPS is more effective and efficient, and less formal, proving an opportunity for better dialogue versus a more “regimented” court system.

“In my mind, it doesn’t take away a person’s right to dispute the ticket. It just changes the way they’re doing it,” he said. “A hearing is just run differently than a trial at a courthouse.”

Turner said the hope is to have AMPS implemented in Kitchener and Waterloo within the next 12 months.

Currently, the Municipal Act allows the system to be used only for parking and licensing offenses, however, the province is looking at expanding it to deal with other bylaw infractions in the future.

Though the province isn’t forcing municipalities to make the move to AMPS, it’s something that will probably be mandatory eventually, MacNeil said.

“We’re just hoping to get ahead of that and doing it more on our timeline instead of getting a deadline.”

She expects the cost of staffing and software upgrades to being relatively minor, with potential savings in other areas helping to offset the overall price of implementation. Over the long term, the cities could add administrative costs to parking tickets in order to recoup costs incurred, she said.

The financial implications of the switchover are still being evaluated, however, and any final decision rests with city councils.

Cities look to take parking out of the courts

News Nov 10, 2017 by Bill Jackson Kitchener Post

People who get a parking ticket in Kitchener and Waterloo won’t be able to appeal it through the courts if a new municipal hearing process is implemented, as planned.

Moving to the "administrative monetary penalties system" (AMPS) isn’t a new concept, according to director of bylaw enforcement Gloria MacNeil, who mentioned the proposed changeover during a recent council discussion pertaining to corporate priorities for 2018.

The AMPS approach to deal with parking infractions has already been implemented by other municipalities including Oakville, Burlington and Brampton and is touted as a more streamlined, customer-service-oriented approach that will cuts costs and unclog the provincial court system.

“This gives people the opportunity to come in and resolve that issue the same day potentially,” MacNeil said. “It also reduces the cost of having our officers sit in court all day.”

People are currently waiting months to get a court date with a justice of the peace, she said.

“Right now, we’re in November and we’re not setting court dates until March of next year.”

Under the new approach being proposed, people would be able to come to city hall and speak directly with “screening officers” who would be sourced internally to start.

Screening officers would have the power to reduce or even writeoff a ticket, and if the recipient is still unsatisfied, they’d be able to request an informal hearing with a hearing officer — likely a contracted position shared by both cities.

The benefit to the public is that it’s less formal and less intimidating, MacNeil said.

“They really do get great results through that screening process and very few people ask for a hearing.”

Other municipalities set aside “hearing days” and often have to cancel them because there aren’t any scheduled, she added.

The past two years, Kitchener has received between 800 and 900 parking trial requests annually.

“Right now, I would say the majority of people that come to our counter to request a trial are simply looking to tell their side and wonder if we’ll consider reducing the ticket, but we don’t have the ability to do that right now,” MacNeil said. “It’s frustrating and people don’t want to take a full day off work to potentially go sit at the courthouse all day.”

Some critics argue the quasi-judicial hearing system takes away a person’s right to have their day in court.

In an article published in Paralegal Scope Magazine earlier this year, Stephen Parker, president of the Ontario Paralegal Association (OPA), said, “It denies a person’s right to challenge the allegation of what is now an offence … They are promoting this as a cost-cutting initiative for the municipalities and nothing to do with a person’s right to face their accuser.”

The “First Attendance” program used by the City of Cambridge gives people the chance to talk to an assistant first and book an appointment to challenge their ticket at city hall. However, if they don’t like the result, they can still file an appeal through the courts.

Shayne Turner, Waterloo’s director of municipal enforcement services, said the AMPS is more effective and efficient, and less formal, proving an opportunity for better dialogue versus a more “regimented” court system.

“In my mind, it doesn’t take away a person’s right to dispute the ticket. It just changes the way they’re doing it,” he said. “A hearing is just run differently than a trial at a courthouse.”

Turner said the hope is to have AMPS implemented in Kitchener and Waterloo within the next 12 months.

Currently, the Municipal Act allows the system to be used only for parking and licensing offenses, however, the province is looking at expanding it to deal with other bylaw infractions in the future.

Though the province isn’t forcing municipalities to make the move to AMPS, it’s something that will probably be mandatory eventually, MacNeil said.

“We’re just hoping to get ahead of that and doing it more on our timeline instead of getting a deadline.”

She expects the cost of staffing and software upgrades to being relatively minor, with potential savings in other areas helping to offset the overall price of implementation. Over the long term, the cities could add administrative costs to parking tickets in order to recoup costs incurred, she said.

The financial implications of the switchover are still being evaluated, however, and any final decision rests with city councils.

Cities look to take parking out of the courts

News Nov 10, 2017 by Bill Jackson Kitchener Post

People who get a parking ticket in Kitchener and Waterloo won’t be able to appeal it through the courts if a new municipal hearing process is implemented, as planned.

Moving to the "administrative monetary penalties system" (AMPS) isn’t a new concept, according to director of bylaw enforcement Gloria MacNeil, who mentioned the proposed changeover during a recent council discussion pertaining to corporate priorities for 2018.

The AMPS approach to deal with parking infractions has already been implemented by other municipalities including Oakville, Burlington and Brampton and is touted as a more streamlined, customer-service-oriented approach that will cuts costs and unclog the provincial court system.

“This gives people the opportunity to come in and resolve that issue the same day potentially,” MacNeil said. “It also reduces the cost of having our officers sit in court all day.”

People are currently waiting months to get a court date with a justice of the peace, she said.

“Right now, we’re in November and we’re not setting court dates until March of next year.”

Under the new approach being proposed, people would be able to come to city hall and speak directly with “screening officers” who would be sourced internally to start.

Screening officers would have the power to reduce or even writeoff a ticket, and if the recipient is still unsatisfied, they’d be able to request an informal hearing with a hearing officer — likely a contracted position shared by both cities.

The benefit to the public is that it’s less formal and less intimidating, MacNeil said.

“They really do get great results through that screening process and very few people ask for a hearing.”

Other municipalities set aside “hearing days” and often have to cancel them because there aren’t any scheduled, she added.

The past two years, Kitchener has received between 800 and 900 parking trial requests annually.

“Right now, I would say the majority of people that come to our counter to request a trial are simply looking to tell their side and wonder if we’ll consider reducing the ticket, but we don’t have the ability to do that right now,” MacNeil said. “It’s frustrating and people don’t want to take a full day off work to potentially go sit at the courthouse all day.”

Some critics argue the quasi-judicial hearing system takes away a person’s right to have their day in court.

In an article published in Paralegal Scope Magazine earlier this year, Stephen Parker, president of the Ontario Paralegal Association (OPA), said, “It denies a person’s right to challenge the allegation of what is now an offence … They are promoting this as a cost-cutting initiative for the municipalities and nothing to do with a person’s right to face their accuser.”

The “First Attendance” program used by the City of Cambridge gives people the chance to talk to an assistant first and book an appointment to challenge their ticket at city hall. However, if they don’t like the result, they can still file an appeal through the courts.

Shayne Turner, Waterloo’s director of municipal enforcement services, said the AMPS is more effective and efficient, and less formal, proving an opportunity for better dialogue versus a more “regimented” court system.

“In my mind, it doesn’t take away a person’s right to dispute the ticket. It just changes the way they’re doing it,” he said. “A hearing is just run differently than a trial at a courthouse.”

Turner said the hope is to have AMPS implemented in Kitchener and Waterloo within the next 12 months.

Currently, the Municipal Act allows the system to be used only for parking and licensing offenses, however, the province is looking at expanding it to deal with other bylaw infractions in the future.

Though the province isn’t forcing municipalities to make the move to AMPS, it’s something that will probably be mandatory eventually, MacNeil said.

“We’re just hoping to get ahead of that and doing it more on our timeline instead of getting a deadline.”

She expects the cost of staffing and software upgrades to being relatively minor, with potential savings in other areas helping to offset the overall price of implementation. Over the long term, the cities could add administrative costs to parking tickets in order to recoup costs incurred, she said.

The financial implications of the switchover are still being evaluated, however, and any final decision rests with city councils.