• 9 Investigates: Parking cheaters

    By: Steve Barrett , Jason Kelly

    Updated:

    ORLANDO, Fla. - Finding a parking spot in downtown Orlando can be a real hassle. For those looking for handicapped spots, it can be even harder.

    9 Investigates looked into claims of disabled parking violations in private and public areas of downtown.

    Channel 9's Steve Barrett found lots of violators but little action to stop drivers from breaking the rules.

    Parking in downtown Orlando is a high-revenue business for both private companies and the city of Orlando.

    Thousands of parking spaces mean tens of thousands of dollars in revenue from parking fees alone.

    But 9 Investigates found another source of revenue -- tickets that are given to average citizens, but not necessarily parking division employees, who also violate rules.

    It was happening in the 55 West parking garage where -- in a private resident area -- handicapped space violations were ignored again and again and again for months

    Read: 9 Investigates: Broken parking meters, bad tickets in Orlando

    "The private areas -- we don't own them and we don't patrol them," said Scott Zollars, of the city's Parking Division. "It's like every other private garage."

    But what about public areas where another violation -- back-in parking -- has generated more than 1,400 tickets in six months, generating more than $42,000 in citations.

    That's for citizens, but parking booth employees seemed to get a pass.

    9 Investigates discovered that parking division employees were both parking without proper handicapped placards or tags and backing into parking spots, something large signs warn against.

    It angers those who really need the handicapped spaces, such as Marian Vandam, a disabled driver.

    "Simply because when I need a space and I can't get one," she said.

    The city admitted employees were in the wrong.

    "In the situation you guys let us know about we found there were two people," Zollars said. "One person is handicapped, had a placard that she wasn't displaying properly. We told her that she has to display it properly."

    Another employee didn't even have a disabled parking permit.

    Both employees were disciplined, but they didn't get a $250 ticket, like others would have received.

    Read: University of Florida will forgive parking tickets for food donations

    "Did that employee get a ticket?" Barrett said.

    "No, we found out about it after the fact," Zollars said.

    "So you didn't witness it?" Barrett said.

    "No, I didn't," Zollars said.

    But even after they were disciplined and minutes before Barrett interviewed Zollars, Barrett discovered an employee vehicle without a hanging placard, backed into the parking space. Anyone else would have two tickets for $280.

    "Would you be surprised if I told you that I just came from there and one of the same cars we caught before has the placard off to the side and it's backed in," Barrett said.

    "Yes, I would be surprised," Zollars said.

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