Photo by dbking on Flickr.
Since 2008 DC Council member Jack Evans has used Constituent Services Funds to reimburse members of his staff for 29 parking tickets totaling $3,341.19. The office of the DC CFO says that’s taxable income.
No other council member has used the fund for that purpose except Michael A. Brown, who paid for 2 tickets totaling $255.38 during the same time period.
The revelation raises questions about the liability of Evans’ staff, and their employer, to pay taxes and fines on reimbursements not reported as income.
Evans’ treatment of parking tickets as work expenses also raises additional questions about the motivations of his campaign to roll back parking meter rates and hours of enforcement. Evans is the primary advocate on the DC Council for rolling back parking restrictions.
A review of campaign finance records shows that since 2008 Evans has made 29 payments from the Constituent Services Fund totaling $3,341.19 to the DC Treasurer, at PO Box 2014. That is the address for paying parking tickets to the DC DMV by mail.
Schannette Grant is Evans’ chief of staff and oversees the fund. In an interview with the Washington Post she said “Sometimes, we will go to a community event at night and park at a meter where it’s only good two hours. That would be a work… expense.”
The Washington Post article focused on Evans’ use of the Constituent Services Fund for sports tickets, and found that practice to be perfectly legal. Meanwhile, Greater Greater Washington contacted the Office of the DC CFO about the legality of Evans’ use of the fund to reimburse staff for parking tickets. According to Natalie Wilson, a spokesperson for the CFO, “based on District tax law, the income received is taxable to the recipient/employee.”
Greater Greater Washington attempted to contact both Grant and Evans’ Director of Communications Andrew Huff via email on Tuesday, inquiring whether the reimbursements were reported as income. Unfortunately there was no reply. An additional voicemail to Evans’ office left late on Wednesday also received no reply.
It should be clear that penalties for breaking the law are never tax deductible work expenses. Parking tickets are no exceptions. Parking laws and fines, like other public laws and fines, are meant to serve the public interest. The city government should not be in the business of paying its employees to break the law.
Evans, the long time chair of the council committee that writes tax law, would surely agree with this principle. The fact that he views parking laws and fines as somehow not like other laws and fines sheds light on his failed campaign to make on-street parking cheaper or free.
By setting parking meters at market rates, parking turnover and availability are maximized such that the broadest possible number of drivers can take advantage of on-street parking. Enforcement is critical to ensure this turnover and availability actually occurs. In short, the city’s parking rates are designed to maximize the efficiency of the system.
Evans does not seem to recognize these efficiencies. He seems to think of parking as an entitlement. That may explain his unique view of parking tickets as work expenses, and his attempts to deregulate and subsidize parking.