Friday, June 5, 2009
5,000 Missing Tickets Found Stuffed in Clerks' Desks
Channel 5 News June 3, 2009 Officials have found thousands of missing traffic tickets, hidden by clerks, right inside the Metro courthouse. The tickets were found stuffed inside two desks, and the number -- more than 5,000 tickets so far -- is staggering. The discovery came after NewsChannel 5 Investigates began asking about tickets that may have been lost or, even worse, deleted. Here are the major developments: The clerk's office says the 5,000 tickets -- written in the last year -- were discovered in desks belonging to just two data-entry workers. Those clerks have now been fired. A judge agreed to extend the deadline for the clerk's office to process those tickets. That means letters will soon be going out to thousands of drivers, telling them they've still got to take care of the tickets. Circuit Court Clerk Ricky Rooker began his morning before a Davidson County judge, asking permission to process the tickets as if nothing had happened. "This hearing was about evidence that was found of tickets not being entered into the system by two employees who hid them in their desks," Rooker told NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter, Phil Williams, after the hearing. Rooker says the tickets were discovered inside the Metro traffic violations bureau Friday night, as he and his management team stayed behind to search employees' desks. "I opened a desk drawer and covered up, underneath coats, just personal belongings, and pulling back the coats, I started seeing tickets," the circuit court clerk said. "Like piles?" Williams asked. "Yes, sir." Rooker said his reaction was to be "stunned, completely stunned." The tickets were found in the desks of two data-entry clerks: Shannon Gift, an employee in the office for the last four years, and Susan Grannis, an employee of more than 20 years. The clerk says that, when confronted this week, both women admitted they had messed up. "I think it originally started, I'll catch up tomorrow, I'll catch up tomorrow, I'll catch up tomorrow -- and it snowballed into something that just couldn't be caught up -- and they just did not want anyone to know." All totaled, the tickets include 4,157 tickets for speeding and other moving violations, dating back to August 2008. Add to that, at least a thousand parking tickets -- tickets that are still being counted. Each represents money that was supposed to go to the city. "If someone sent in money, if they did not send the hard copy of that ticket in -- and they sent in money after the 45-day compliance date -- we would have had to send the money back," Rooker said. Now, the circuit court clerk says his challenge is restoring public confidence in the system. "I just never would have thought that a policy or procedure had to be put into place to keep someone from maliciously and purposefully putting tickets in their desk and hiding them from management." Rooker says he interviewed both clerks and fired them when they could not explain all the tickets founds in their desks. Neither of the women had any comment when contacted by NewsChannel 5. In addition, Rooker has asked Metro's auditor to take a look at how tickets are handled inside the traffic violations bureau. The auditor says he's still trying to figure out how broad that audit will be. Rooker is also referring the matter to the district attorney's office to see if a fullscale criminal investigation is needed.
Posted by Blogger at 8:29 AM