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Unclaimed parking ticket refunds go to city of L.A.

Some at City Hall are questioning whether the city of Los Angeles should have taken more than $56,000 set aside for motorists who had successfully challenged their parking tickets and used it to help patch a budget hole.

They wonder whether the motorists, owed sums as large as $350, had enough of a chance to claim the money before it was rolled into city coffers. Officials ran newspaper advertisements earlier this year stating the council planned to pocket the money from nearly 1,100 refund checks, which were mailed in 2007 and 2008 but never cashed.

But those ads never named those who had money coming to them, and neither did the city's own website.

"If our city's residents are entitled to refunds of money, then certainly the city should make every effort to make sure that the money gets into the rightful hands," said Councilman Paul Krekorian, who heads the council's Budget and Finance Committee.

Krekorian persuaded his colleagues Tuesday to take the first step toward creating a publicly accessible database showing residents whether they are owed money from incorrectly issued parking tickets. Depending on how exhaustive it is, the database could give car owners a way to secure refunds dating from well before 2007, according to one city official.

Jan Zatorski, assistant director of the city's Office of Finance, said the city has no deadline for the public to claim such refunds even if the money has been swept into the budget, which pays for basic services such as police and fire protection.

"With the appropriate documentation, a person could still obtain a refund or unclaimed money even after" the funds were transferred, she said in an email.

State law allows government agencies to keep certain funds that sit unclaimed after three years. But first they must run legal advertisements — tiny notices that typically appear at the back of print publications — declaring their intention to do so.

City Department of Transportation spokesman Bruce Gillman said his agency would respond to Krekorian's proposal by identifying on its parking violations website people who were awarded ticket refunds as a result of City Hall hearings.

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-- David Zahniser at L.A. City Hall

 
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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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