In what is a perfect analogy for getting a taste of your own medicine, three Melbourne councils will pay back close to $20 million worth of disputed parking fines after they were found to be in breach of the Infringement Act.
The order comes after the Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said the three councils acted ‘contrary to law’ when it outsourced the parking fine review system to a private contractor.
Glen Eira city council, Port Phillip city council and the City of Stonnington have categorically denied any wrongdoing, despite agreeing to pay back fines reviewed between 2006 and 2016 or 2017 as a “gesture of goodwill”.
A gesture of goodwill that only came about after a lawyer disputed the legality of the internal review process for parking fines through his website “fine defender”.
The Department of Justice and Community Safety concluded that reviews must be conducted by the agency that issues the fine, as the Infringement Act 2006 does not refer to private contractors.
Glass said the definition of “enforcement agency” is unclear,” with the Ombudsman expressing its opinion that the “administrative action appears to be contrary to law.”
More Victorian councils are likely using external contractors, with Glass identifying “the speed with which recommendations were accepted gave no hint of independent assessment.”
“At least five councils outsourced internal reviews of parking fines to a private contractor over a period of 10 years. Two councils publicly acknowledged legal doubts and refunded affected motorists.”
In one example, a council officer took just one minute to approve 107 applications, at roughly half a second per request.
Despite this, the City of Stonnington has rejected the position entirely, claiming “Council officers were still appropriately instructed to review Tenix’s recommendations and were the ultimate and final decision-makers in the process.”
Either way, there are going to be some thrilled Victorians parking around the state as the refunds are processed.