CLEVELAND (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-Team has found the city of Cleveland has not collected more than $40 million in parking ticket fines. This comes to light as the city is going after drivers like you for not paying those fines 20 years ago.
The I-Team checked from the year 2000 through 2022. And, we found the Cleveland Clerk of Courts Office never collected a total of $42,678,161.
The clerk’s office is using the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to send out threatening letters. That is part of a new campaign to go after 100,000 unpaid tickets from 2000-2005.
Malia Nesbitt told us she got one of those letters ordering payment for a very old ticket.
“This was really frustrating, and we just feel like we were hijacked,” she said.
When we told her about the $42 million in unpaid parking fines she said, “I can’t do business like that. You can’t do business like that. Why weren’t they on top of that? I don’t understand it.”
We took that question to the clerk’s office to ask why more wasn’t done before now to collect tens of millions of dollars.
“Well, a number of things have been done,” spokesman Obie Shelton said.
Shelton says the clerk’s office has always sent multiple reminder letters to every driver who didn’t pay a parking ticket. And, the office has hired collection agencies to try to get payment on old tickets. And, the city has used special vehicles downtown to identify drivers owing ticket money and more.
Shelton points out the new crackdown has more power to get people to pay. The Attorney General’s Office can take money from tax returns or lottery winnings or sports betting winnings.
And, the new campaign, we‘re told, has already brought in nearly $300,000.
“Where was this tool before now? Now, this one is resulting in some income that has not been seen with the other tools,” Shelton added.
Still, look at how long it took just to set up the new collection program. The clerk’s office signed an agreement with the attorney general back in 2021. But, drivers just started getting notices saying they had to pay parking tickets from a long time ago.
The I-Team has been contacted by dozens of people frustrated by getting the new collection letters. And, many drivers have had questions, so we took their concerns to an attorney.
“There are people out there probably unfairly facing these collection efforts,” Tom Merriman of the Merriman Legal Group said.
But, he added, while it may not seem fair, drivers can’t do much to fight or avoid paying.
“There’s no way to go back and verify whether this is legit or not, so the state has incredible power here,” Merriman said.
While the clerk’s office has focused on, first, going after tickets from 20 years ago, the office could decide to expand the new collection effort to other years.
After all, $42 million bucks is out there.
Malia Nesbitt paid her old ticket, but she had a final thought about the clerk’s office backlog of unpaid fines, saying, “If they did anything at all, it wasn’t very much.”
We’ve even heard from families saying collection letters have been sent recently to people who’ve died.