Monday brought the fourth and final reading for the city's plans to move forward to an adjudication process when it comes to civic bylaw infractions, a discussion on the night that made the most of the Corporate Administrators knowledge on the topic.
Despite a report from the previous council session and the discussion at that time earlier this month the Council members still had a number of unresolved questions to raise towards the city's proposed bylaw enforcement program.
Much of the explanation towards the new Bylaw provisions and how the adjudication process would move forward fell to Corporate Administrator Rosa Miller to answer.
The main theme of the presentation somewhat similar to the popular TED Talk themes of sharing information, though this one without benefit of visual aids.
Councillor Cunningham opened up the rapid fire question period, first by calling attention to a change from the previous version of the Bylaw from earlier this month and the one now under consideration which removed one element, with a second one removed inadvertently.
That missing element was then returned to the Bylaw document under consideration.
As for the remaining questions:
Councillor Randhawa asked about the dispute process and the cost required for those seeking an adjudication on their tickets.
In reply the Corporate Administrator offered up the following:
"There is an administration fee of twenty five dollars for adjudication How that adjudication process works is that someone is issued a ticket that they choose to dispute, it then would go to a screening officer who would review the validity of the ticket and review the photos, ensure that the ticket was issued appropriately. If it's found that the ticket was issue appropriately ... The Screening Officer could then say that the ticket stood. If the person still wished to proceed with adjudication there is a fee because we still have to get an outside adjudicator. So the twenty five dollar fee is simply a recovery for City cost.
Councillor Cunningham asked for some further clarification related to the twenty five dollar fee, Ms. Miller observed how the fee was only in place if the person receiving the ticket wished to move to adjudication.
"To dispute a ticket is no charge, the initial portion of the dispute is that you simply there will be a form that will be live, providing Council passes this bylaw, immediately following the meeting you can go online and there's a form to fill out.
Once you dispute the ticket, the ticket and all of the file information then goes to the Screening officer which will either be myself or Dr. Buchan at the moment.
We would then review the file and provide a ruling to the person who was issued the bylaw infraction.
If they still choose to dispute the ticket, then there is an application fee for adjudication, it's a 25 dollar coast in order to have the adjudication take place"
Councillor Cunningham observed that basically that was a fee to dispute the ticket, an area that the Corporate Administrator added further overview towards.
"Only if you go to adjudication, the actual dispute process is no charge, but the adjudication is where the fee comes in. It would be no different and actually far less costly than if you choose to dispute the ticket and go to court, where the fee is significantly higher"
A similar call for clarification from Councillor Forster provided for additional information towards the process related to any evidence collected, with the Corporate Administrator noting how the city would review the ticket and if determined that it was issued in error the process would end there.
"Once the ticket is then reviewed, so using your example, if you get a ticket, I review the photos and determine actually it was a ticket issued incorrectly ... we may not necessarily provide you with that information but we would note that the ticket has been waived"
Another question on fees from Councillor Randhawa provided for another go round at an explanation of how the fees would be administered.
"The fee for adjudication is 25 dollars, it's going to cost us 25 dollars to proceed with the adjudication, so yes. But if your ticket is 150 dollars and your adjudication fee is 25 dollars. seems like a pretty good savings"
Councillor Adey then noted that some of the confusion of the past came from the term voluntary which reduced the will to pay the assessed fines and how this new process seem designed to improve on the stats; asking how often the city anticipates that a ticket may be contested and reach the adjudication stage.
Ms. Miller noted she could not speculate on that area, noting further how the ticket is only voluntary until the assessed person chooses to pay or dispute the ticket.
"The ticket portion just to reiterate, is not voluntary it's only voluntary until you choose to not dispute in which case you have accepted that you have done the bylaw infraction. By disputing the ticket you are saying, no, no, no that wasn't me.
In other areas, you know our bylaw officers have ways and means to ensure that the tickets are correct but errors do happen. So it is possible that once we review the information, we can provide you with that information to say here's all the evidentiary proof that yes, your car was on the yellow line.
In which case should you choose to proceed with adjudication, then I guess that's your choice, but in other jurisdictions it's been up to 80 to 85 percent for compliance"
Councillor Niesh then asked if the word voluntary would then be removed from the ticket, to that Ms. Miller advised that the city cannot change the wording on the tickets.
"No, we are legally unable to remove the word voluntary. A ticket is voluntary for the first fourteen days because you have an option as to whether or not you decide that you have actually created the bylaw infraction.
If you choose to dispute it, it's voluntary. If you choose not to dispute and fourteen days pass, the ticket is no longer voluntary, you an go to adjudication if you like after fourteen days. But if those fourteen day pass you are now saying that no it was actually in fact me that did the crime"
Councillor Cunningham continued on the theme of the voluntary aspect, noting of the past mis-understanding and how 75 percent of the time, the bylaw officers time has been wasted.
The Corporate Administrator outlined how the new process offers the city opportunity to forward tickets by mail, which frees up bylaw officer time and makes collection easier.
"The reason we've gone to an adjudication process is that through this process we can now serve tickets by mail.
Previously if you had a parking that is twenty or thirty five dollars, it's not worth a bylaw officer to go to file an application in court every single time and clog up the court system with a twenty five dollar infraction.
Through the adjudication process we can now mail you the ticket as opposed to doing a personal service, which then takes the time of the bylaw officer to go do that. We have to track you down, we have to provide that we'e done service and then we need to file court documents in order to show this.
So by going through the adjudication process we can now mail the ticket to people and if you choose to not dispute it, and you then are accepting that you've done the infraction. It makes collections easier we now have evidentiary proof that you've accepted the ticket.
Councillor Forster suggested that a wider overview of the process be included on the city's website, that served as an opportunity for Mr. Miller to outline the communication strategy that the city would put in place to help explain the process.
"Actually as of end of the meeting tonight, pending approval of and passing of the bylaw our Communication Manager has prepared a plethora of information for the website.
Including definitions of the voluntary system, what a ticket is, what an infraction looks like and the process clearly outlined for a dispute.
As well as a button, that will take you to the form should you wish to dispute the ticket"
And from that opportunity, the Mayor brought the discussion to a close, the bylaw approved by Council vote.