Levittown native John Burmeister walked over to his car like any other day. But he noticed something different. He had been booted.
“He got off the train at the Hicksville train station,” Legislator John R. Ferretti Jr. said. “His car was in a private lot and when he got off the train—it was in December, so it was very cold outside—there was a boot on his car. He never received a ticket.”
Burmeister became yet another victim of erroneous booting by the Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency (NCTPVA). When he called the number on the boot, they admitted their mistake.
Lo and behold, he waited three hours until someone came to remove it because the agency wouldn’t give him a code to enter while he was on the phone with them.
Now, Ferretti is determined to find out why Burmeister and others in Levittown and its surrounding areas are being booted for no reason.
“At the budget hearings in October, the director of NCTPVA, David Rich, appeared to testify about the boot and tow program,” Ferretti said. “I read about an erroneous boot that was placed on a vehicle in Massapequa in August of 2018. The county admitted they erroneously booted a vehicle and the county executive apologized for it. In October, when we had our hearing, I questioned Mr. Rich about the erroneous boot in Massapequa. He said it was one that fell through the cracks; they were going to conduct a review and it would never happen again.”
In Nassau County, a vehicle can be booted if a car owner has two or more unpaid tickets. The NCTPVA will then place a boot on one of the front wheels to prevent the driver from moving the car until they pay the tickets over the phone.
Ferretti believes that this began when County Executive Laura Curran took office in January 2018. Fast forward to that September 2018 budget hearing and she did make a request to have the NCTPVA review the boot and tow program.
But it happened again—in Levittown—and Ferretti wants answers.
“I requested a list of all erroneously booted vehicles in Nassau County in the last year,” he said. “I want the results of the systematic review the county was to allegedly have performed of the boot and tow program. I want a list of the location of every car that was booted, whether it was proper or improper over the last year.”
Ferretti wasn’t acknowledged by Rich’s or Curran’s offices for months about whether or not they even received his request. A follow-up letter written by Ferretti in February threatened to order a legislative subpoena to the NCTPVA, which he can do as the chairman of the Veteran and Senior Affairs Committee. Still, he didn’t get any response until local media contacted Curran’s office on March 1.
“Within an hour, I had a stack of paper on my desk,” he said. “I have not fully reviewed this stack of paper because it’s probably going to take me a month to do it.” Yet even with the stack of paper, Ferretti doesn’t believe the work is done. There was no systematic review of the boot and tow program, according to the cover letter the agency wrote. The dozens of files is simply a list of vehicles that have been booted since Jan. 1, 2018.
“They did not provide me a list of erroneously booted vehicles,” he said. “Apparently, they don’t have the mechanisms to do that. The papers are just vehicles that have been booted over the last year. It’s one of the three things and it’s just a list of addresses. It doesn’t have dates of when vehicles were booted.”
In the cover letter from Rich’s office, Ferretti is told that he can only be given the requested information if he provides a name, license plate or boot violation number. The problem is that is what he’s been requesting. Now, they’re asking him to provide those key details.
“To me, that’s unacceptable,” Ferretti said. “If there are multiple vehicles that are being erroneously booted, they should be keeping track of those, so they can figure out why and what they can do to prevent this from happening.”
Instead of the systematic review of the program, Ferretti said the NCTPVA didn’t do its job. Rather than the agency conducting a review of the vendor, the vendor did just that of itself. And the vendor did not review all erroneous boots. Instead, they looked at one case of a Massapequa woman from August, which the county had already admitted to.
“I don’t know if they have the capacity to be cooperative because they’ve put their heads in the sand for the last six months since I initially requested this information,” Ferretti said.
“They seem to have failed to compile a list of erroneously booted vehicles and failed to conduct a review to weed out the reasons why these errors have occurred and how to make changes or to retrain their staff to ensure these kind of errors won’t happen again in the future.” Ferretti will go through the documents provided before determining whether or not he will issue a subpoena to Rich’s office.
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