ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Imagine getting a notice in the mail saying you had an unpaid parking ticket from a city where your car has never been.

That’s what a St. Petersburg woman says happened to her. She has spent months calling, mailing, and faxing information, only to be pursued by a collection agency.

Jane Barr, a 77-year-old St. Petersburg retiree, received a notice in the mail last December saying she owed $154 for a parking violation on trendy Collins Avenue, the main shopping and hotel street parallel to Miami Beach.

Jane Barr

WFTS

“I was not there. Could not have been there. Haven’t been there in years. So that’s not right,” Barr said.

The ticket was made out to the same license plate number assigned to Barr’s 2018 Toyota Prius.

“It is the correct tag, but I think somebody may have written it down wrong,” Barr said.

Jane Barr's Toyota Prius was in St. Petersburg when ticket was written, according to evidence she provided to the parking department.

WFTS

Jane Barr’s Toyota Prius was in St. Petersburg when ticket was written, according to evidence she provided to the parking department.

Calendar, toll receipt, and wrong make of car verify Barr’s account

We called the Miami-Dade clerk’s office automated phone number last week to learn more about the violation.

When we entered the citation information, a computer message said, “This ticket was entered on November 16th, 2023, at 6:37 pm for obstructing traffic or hazardous parking. “

Barr’s calendar shows she went to a doctor’s appointment that day, helped a friend recovering from a stroke and drove to another friend’s house for dinner.

“I’m in St. Petersburg and I have quite a few people who can say I was,” Barr said.

She says her car’s transponder even shows her Prius passed over the Pinellas Bayway toll bridge moments before the ticket was issued more than 250 miles away.

Records from the parking department also show the citation was entered to a while-four-door Ford, not to Barr’s Toyota Prius.

Barr said she called the ticket office repeatedly and was bounced from one menu to another.

She says she left voicemails for people who didn’t return her calls.

Barr said it was nearly impossible to get an employee on the phone.

“There’s no one to talk to and no one to handle it,” Barr said.

Eventually, she reached an employee who emailed her a “Motion for Relief” form, which she filled out and mailed in.

Appeal Jane Barr sent to Miami-Dade Parking Department

Jane Barr

Appeal Jane Barr sent to Miami-Dade Parking Department

She never heard back.

“I don’t understand it, and it would be really nice if somebody would respond,” she said.

Disputed citation turned over to collections

Months later, something else arrived.

“I got a form that came from a collection agency in New York for that ticket,” Barr said.

The company… Professional Account Management… contracts with more than 100 state and local agencies to collect overdue parking fines, unpaid red-light tickets and toll violations.

The amount the notice said she owed was more than $200.

Jane Barr reviews her notice of citation and collection notice

WFTS

Jane Barr reviews her notice of citation and collection notice

When she called the number for the collection company, Barr spent more hours on hold.

So she went to an office store and tried an “old school” approach to resend her dispute to the parking office.

“I decided ok, here’s a fax number. I’m going to fax it to them,” Barr said, using a fax number from the parking department’s website and obtaining a receipt.

But she said she never heard from anyone.

Barr eventually contacted the I-Team, fearing that an unpaid ticket could affect her credit rating or worse.

“My license could get suspended. And I didn’t do anything. It’s not fair,” she said.

I-Team gets results

We contacted a Miami-Dade court spokesperson last week who declined an interview but got the case dismissed without any explanation of what went wrong.

The Miami-Dade online parking violations system now shows Barr owes nothing, and the spokesperson says the credit agency will be notified that the case is no longer in collections.

“That’s all I’m asking for. I’m not trying to get out of something I did. I’m trying to solve a problem of something I didn’t do,” Barr said.

The Miami-Dade parking office offers people an opportunity to request a court hearing to dispute citations, but Barr said that would have cost her even more time and money.

Send your story idea and tips to Adam Walser





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