9 Investigates possible special treatment over SunPass toll issue



ORLANDO, Fla. - 9 Investigates has reported about drivers getting toll tickets even though they have transponders in their car.
Channel 9's Vanessa Welch investigates whether that woman got special treatment.
Plenty of drivers have gotten tickets because they blew through a toll plaza and didn’t have enough money in their SunPass accounts.
But when it happened to Erica George, a top Department of Transportation attorney showed up in court and got her ticket dismissed
Welch asked that attorney, Frank Starr, why he asked for George's ticket to be dismissed. She also asked him why the head of the turnpike was getting involved in getting a toll ticket tossed out.
Starr wouldn’t tell 9 Investigates why George's case was so special but Roger Goe thinks he knows.
"There is an attempt to cover up some internal problems with SunPass,” he said.
Goe said he uncovered a glitch in the SunPass system before he resigned as a toll enforcement officer.

He said even when drivers fill up their SunPass accounts with money, like George did, the system can't automatically apply the funds to unpaid tolls, which could result in license suspensions.
"You could pay off the $50 you owe on (your) SunPass account and still have (the) violation that hasn’t been taken care of," said Goe.
Goe said DOT was aware of the problem but no one listened when he complained.
But they apparently listened to George, who works in media relations.
9 Investigates found records showing George complained to the head of the Department of Transportation, Ananth Prasad, and even threatened to expose the problem to "every single local newspaper, TV and radio station."  
Officials wouldn’t respond to  any of 9 Investigates' questions about why top officials went out of their way to get George’s $236 ticket dismissed
But when Welch dug through George's court file, she found an email where Diane Gutierrez Scaccetti, the head of the Florida Turnpike, admits the current SunPass system has "exceeded its useful life."
Scaccetti said that just like Goe said, that there's no "automatic process" to apply money from a SunPass account to cover unpaid violations.
DOT officials may have fixed George’s problem but Goe is upset they didn’t fix the system that affects millions of drivers, and that’s why he said he resigned.
"It was the final straw, I didn’t want to be part of it anymore I felt dirty,” he said.
Channel 9 asked SunPass if George got special treatment. Late Monday, they sent us an email saying, "Any customer who escalates an issue with a similar situation will receive the same type of treatment as this customer.”
As we told you a few weeks ago, SunPass temporarily stopped issuing new toll tickets because the punishment wasn’t fair.
Instead of getting your license suspended for a few unpaid fines, you won't be able to renew your car registration.
George did not respond to Channel 9's calls or emails for comment.