Tracy VanderLuitgaren moved out of the city in 2006, but even in Kane County she could not avoid the long arm of Chicago's Department of Revenue.
In April, the North Aurora resident drove back to her old stomping ground to have dinner with some friends. She parked her car legally on Chicago Avenue but returned to find a parking ticket affixed to her window.She looked closely and realized it was a mistake. The $50 ticket was issued because her car did not have an updated city sticker. Because she no longer lives in the city, she doesn't need one.
VanderLuitgaren wasn't too worried. She figured a judge would throw out the ticket after she explained the circumstances.
She contested the ticket by mail, attaching a letter explaining her situation.
Weeks later, the city sent its ruling. Without explanation, the hearing officer upheld the ticket. Adding insult to injury, the city jacked up her fine, from $50 to $120.
Undeterred, VanderLuitgaren contested the ticket again. Again, the city ruled against her, issuing a "Final Determination Notice." Again, the city offered no explanation for its ruling, but left little doubt it was serious. "PAYMENT IS DUE," it said. Oh, and her bill had grown yet again, to $240.
"I could have appealed the violation to the Circuit Court of Cook County by filing a civil lawsuit against the city, but come on," VanderLuitgaren wrote in her mid-June e-mail to What's Your Problem? "How many people really spend that much money to fight a parking ticket?"
Figuring she was out of options, VanderLuitgaren cut the city a check for $240.
She also cut the city from her future dinner plans.
"I'm scared I might get another ticket for a violation I did not commit," she said.
The Problem Solver called Deputy Chief Administrative Law Judge Patricia Jackowiak, who agreed to look into VanderLuitgaren's case. Jackowiak reviewed her documents and quickly determined the previous rulings should be reversed.
Jackowiak said VanderLuitgaren's initial letter contesting the ticket did not include all of the information necessary for the administrative hearing officer to rule in her favor. In particular, Jackowiak said, it was not clear exactly when VanderLuitgaren moved.
She asked VanderLuitgaren to send a copy of her car registration, which showed she had moved to North Aurora before receiving the April 3 ticket. That document convinced Jackowiak of her innocence.
Jackowiak said she will ask the Department of Revenue to file a petition to vacate the judgment against VanderLuitgaren. After the judgment is vacated, the Department of Revenue will refund VanLuitgaren the $240.
Jackowiak called her Monday and explained the procedure.
What made VanderLuitgaren most upset, she said, is she never got an explanation about why her appeals had been rejected.
"They just kept sending me notices, and I didn't know what was going on," she said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun