By Jacob Katel
By Karli Evans
By Jose D. Duran
By Pablo Chacon Alvarez
By Kat Bein
By Abel Folgar
By Laurie Charles
Some notables are among the tens of thousands of South Floridians listed in Miami-Dade County's database of unpaid parking tickets.
Among the most prominent is Miami City Commissioner Tomas Regalado who, along with his son, Tomasito, has failed to pay $121 in overdue fines for three tickets. The first one came courtesy of the City of Coral Gables in 1997 for an expired meter. Miami police issued another in 1997 and a third this past January; both were for parking in a prohibited area.
Regalado, already in hot water over a hefty, publicly financed gasoline bill, blames his Tomasito for the parking peccadillo. "First he told me he paid [the tickets]," Regalado says of his 22-year-old son. "Then he told me the meter was broken and he was going to fight the ticket. I said, 'Write them a letter explaining the meter was broken.' When I get a ticket, and I got one the other day in Coral Gables, I pay it immediately."
By Florida law vehicle owners are responsible for all tickets on their cars. If there is more than one owner, all are accountable. If the younger Regalado fails in his civic duty, the state will allow neither father nor son to renew the tag on the 1996, two-door, maroon Honda Accord -- at least until one of them ponies up the cash.
Joining the Regalados on the list are Miami-Dade aviation director Gary Dellapa and his brother, Fred. Coral Gables cited the pair four times in 1998 and 1999. Two of the tickets were for parking in a prohibited area; the third related to an expired license plate. The big fine came this past May when their 1997 Chevrolet Suburban turned up in a handicap space without the required sticker. Total due the City Beautiful: $304. Enforcement officers have been authorized to tow the car next time they spot it.
Like Regalado, Dellapa says he's not responsible. Fred is the driver; the aviation director's name is only on the registration because he cosigned the loan. Fred is handicapped, but his wife, Monica, was caught parking in a handicap space without the blue decal, Gary Dellapa explains. Then he adds: "I think he got rid of that car." Doesn't matter. If neither Fred nor Gary makes due, a bill collector may show up at their homes.
It may be harder for the collector to track down Sly Stallone, who left town in 1998. Although Miami's elite generally prefer riding with a chauffeur, Sly was a notable exception. In 1997 the multimillionaire actor racked up two tickets on his 1996, four-door, green Mercedes-Benz while frolicking in South Beach. He owes a total of $89. Could this be the real reason Sly bolted?
Topping the list of familiar ticket cheaters is no luminary, but a bureaucracy: Miami-Dade County. Following closely is the City of Miami. The county has 83 overdue tickets, totaling $3561 in fines. And cash-strapped Miami can't seem to find sufficient funds to pay for 58 unpaid tickets, including 15 racked up by the police department. Total Miami owes the violations bureau: $2698.
Government officials explain that the employees who drive city and county cars are responsible for paying the penalties. The only exception would be for a special circumstance, such as an undercover police investigation. And many cars are shared, making it difficult to identify the responsible driver.
"If you use your assigned car and don't put money in the meter, you are subject to the same law as everyone else," Miami City Manager Don Warshaw says. "Sorry to say I've had to pay for parking tickets a couple of times." That's no lie. But the manager has paid up. He had no outstanding tickets as of July 31, 1999.
RELATED STORIES by Jose Luis Jiménez
"Ticket and Run," September 2
"Pay Up? Why Bother?" (sidebar), September 2