Angelenos furious over special 'Gold Card' for traffic tickets

The Los Angeles Times / KTLA 5 News | May 20, 2011

Los Angeles residents are up in arms over the existence of the "Gold Card," a plastic parking bureau card distributed to city offices that includes a special phone number.

The obscure Gold Card Services Desk allowed the mayor and other elected officials to expedite citation reviews.

On the back, the card notes that the holder may have an "urgent need to resolve any parking citation matter which requires special attention." It promises "you will be immediately connected to our Gold Card Specialist."

A report released Thursday by City Controller Wendy Greuel found that about 1,000 Los Angeles city parking citations were dismissed over a two-year period -- some without justification -- as part of the Gold Card operation.

The program was started about 20 years ago to permit officials and their staff to expedite constituents’ appeals of parking tickets and possibly have fines reduced or eliminated.

"I wish they did let us know about it," said Donny Legans, 55, who arrived at the city's parking enforcement office Thursday to pay an $88 ticket. "The system is so unfair. Sometimes the meters aren't even working and they give us tickets."

Most of those interviewed said they were angry about the program's existence -- and will be even more upset if it turns out that elected officials used the program to get special treatment for themselves and their friends.

John Torres arrived at the parking enforcement office in a fury. He said he got his ticket after the enforcement officer accused him of spending 90 minutes at a meter in the 1400 block of West Washington Boulevard.

Torres said he put money in the meter, and had been there for 10 minutes. Since being cited, his fine doubled from $75 to $150 because he had been away on business and didn't have the opportunity to pay it immediately.

Torres, who was surprised to hear about the "Gold Card Desk," said he'd like access to the program himself so he could contest his fine.