At a time when the city has faced painful budget shortfalls, Seattle Municipal Court has routinely reduced parking and traffic tickets by an average of about 70 percent and withheld this information from Mayor Greg Nickels, reports the Seattle Times. The paper said that in a recent 18-month period, Municipal Court magistrates reduced traffic and parking fines by more than $1.5 million, some of which could have gone to save programs slated for elimination, such as the Seattle Public Library’s bookmobile.
Analysts working for the mayor repeatedly asked for information about fine reductions but were told by court officials that detailed records couldn’t be produced. In one e-mail, a high-ranking court official told a subordinate she did not want city financial analysts “to poke around to try to confirm” fine reductions. Top court officials maintain they weren’t hiding information. A deputy mayor said, “This is a trust issue we’ve got to deal with.”