Traffic wardens 'advised to issue illegal tickets'
THREE former parking attendants claim they were told by the city council to issue illegal tickets.
Jo Pengilley, Tony Lewis and Sylvia Watts made the claims at an employment tribunal where they are claiming unfair constructive dismissal.
The trio were originally employed as traffic wardens by Devon and Cornwall Police.
They became civil officers employed by the city council when the authority took over responsibility for parking enforcement in May 2008.
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And it was claimed that a number of problems at work and the incompetence of managers had led them to hand in their notice.
During Miss Pengilley's evidence, she said they were told to issue illegal tickets.
The tribunal heard claims that they were told to ignore traffic regulation orders — the rules which govern where people can park — as their job was now different.
It was alleged that a supervisor at the council wrote to all civil enforcement officers telling them to issue tickets in areas where the signs and lines were ambiguous or not compliant with traffic regulation orders. They were told to let the back office decide if the tickets should stand.
In her evidence, Miss Pengilley said that if any appeal came in, the ticket would be cancelled if there was doubt that the restrictions did not comply with the traffic orders.
She told the hearing in a statement: "It was not something that I wished to do, or was happy about doing, but I did do it."
She considered it to be deception, as motorists would pay despite the fact the ticket should not have been issued.
It was claimed that management knew about the issue but ordered the officers to "just get on with it".
The tribunal was also told that builders and workmen were allowed to park on double yellow lines, often bringing the city to a standstill.
M otorists who drove off while tickets were being issued got off "scot-free" because the council did not have the systems in place to follow them up.
The officers claimed they were also ordered to patrol the lower end of the High Street, where they claim signage was ambiguous and non-compliant, when they had not been asked to do so as police traffic wardens.
Miss Pengilley claimed in her statement that some staff regularly slept or listened to music in the King William Street mess room. She claimed some went to watch Exeter City playing a home game, and one went to have breakfast with a relative on a daily basis while on duty.
Mr Lewis told the tribunal of unprofessional management. He claimed officers were constantly told to issue tickets to vehicles in areas where they thought doing so was illegal. He claimed he was told by a manager that standards were going to drop compared to his time as a police traffic warden.
In cross-examination on behalf of the city council, Ian Morgan told the tribunal that Devon County Council was primarily responsible for signs and lines across the city.
The tribunal was told the issuing of tickets, if in doubt, showed a blanket and consistent approach, and at no point did any of the three officers make a formal complaint.
In cross-examination, it was revealed Miss Pengilley and Mr Lewis resigned after being suspended. Ms Watts handed in her notice while on sick leave.
The tribunal continues.