Hundreds of homeowners overcharged
PROVIDENCE, RI — Following an investigation by a local media outlet early this month, Councilman David A. Salvatore has uncovered discrepancies related to fines issued to homeowners for trash violations.
Media outlet NBC10 alerted Salvatore to a $50 fine being assessed to homeowners leaving trash bins curbside after midnight of their assigned trash day.
“During my conversation with the reporter, I recalled an amendment that was approved by the City Council which reduced first time trash violation fines,” said Councilman Salvatore. “After some research of Providence’s Code of Ordinances, it was confirmed that the City Council had amended the Code to set a more equitable fine structure in 2011.”
Those amended fines were set at $25 for a first offense and $50 for a second offense, with all subsequent fines to be levied at $100 and not to exceed $1,500 per calendar year. Despite the 2011 ordinance change, Salvatore’s research concludes that residents have been receiving first-time violation citations at the $50 fine level – with no $25 fine listed on the citations.
Councilman Salvatore immediately asked for a comprehensive audit of trash fines, and the city put all fines on hold while working to determine whether any improper fines had been assessed. The city’s Internal Auditor is still reviewing more than 1,000 citations related to early storage and/or late removal of trash containers. From the information analyzed thus far, it is estimated that 60 percent of the citations reflect an overcharge.
“Many of our constituents are working two or even three jobs just to put food on their table. Any overcharge is unacceptable, but especially when so many of our residents are already struggling to get by,” said Salvatore. “While I believe that this was an honest mistake, this is an example of extreme carelessness and lack of clear policy and protocol. In addition to ensuring that technology reflects correct information, we need to ensure that our inspectors are trained properly on changes to municipal ordinances they are tasked with enforcing.”
Salvatore noted that the audit of trash fines is still underway; however, as with any thorough review, this audit is a long and cumbersome process that involves culling through physical tickets and other related documentation. He pledged to provide full details of the audit when it is completed and to ensure that any overcharged homeowners receive restitution.
“As elected officials, we have a duty to keep our streets clean and safe. However, we also have a duty to protect our residents, and we owe it to them to follow the rules that we ourselves have set forth,” said Salvatore.