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Texas firm to handle overdue parking fines

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore is planning to hand over delinquent parking tickets to a Texas-based collections firm in an effort to recapture more than $100 million the city is owed in back fines and late penalties, city officials said yesterday.

More than 107,000 vehicle owners with tickets that are at least six months overdue received notice from the city last week that they need to pay up or their cases will be turned over to the agency, Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson, for collection.

For the first time, however, violators will be given the option of paying parking tickets on an installment plan and, as long as they continue to make those payments on time, will not incur additional late-payment penalties, city officials said.

Late penalties on certain parking tickets can increase far beyond the original fine. City officials said violators who take part in payment plans would still have to pay the back penalties, but would not incur new late fees.

"I felt that the citizens of Baltimore were being unfairly taxed because, if you have a parking ticket for $12, it could turn into $2,000 or $3,000," said City Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who lobbied for a change in the way tickets were collected. "There should be some kind of cap on that."

The city will also continue to report drivers who do not pay tickets to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, which prohibits them from renewing vehicle registrations. City officials said they will review tickets on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the firm will report the delinquencies to credit rating agencies.

Baltimore expects to collect $20 million in parking fines and late fees in the current fiscal year, city officials said. The city selected Linebarger Goggan - which has a principal office in Austin, Texas - after seeking several proposals last fall.

Residents who owe more than $500 will be required to pay 25 percent of their outstanding debt immediately and then the remaining balance over a 12-month period. Those who owe less than $500 must pay 50 percent down and the balance over six months.

Campaign finance records show the company made a $2,000 contribution to Martin O'Malley in 2005, when he was mayor.

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