1/24/2008Louisiana: City Hearing Officer Caught on Tape Laughing at Motorists
A Lafayette, Louisiana city official is caught on tape laughing at motorists with an independent adjudicator. Audio clip at bottom of story.
A Lafayette, Louisiana city official was caught on tape last week laughing at motorists behind closed doors with an independent hearing officer and a representative from a speed camera vendor. The conversation followed an adjudicatory hearing where Mark and Phil Abshire successfully beat a pair of photo radar tickets by showing the city cited the wrong ordinance on the citations issued. (View story and video of the hearing) Lafayette City Traffic and Transportation Director Tony Tramel joined independent adjudicator Fred Davis and an unidentified employee, likely of Redflex, in discussing the twins' case.
"That sort of came out of nowhere," Davis said on tape, referring to the Abshires' discovery of the discrepancy with the ordinance.
"Hey, it happens," an unidentified employee, likely of Redflex, said. "I'm telling you this. In this particular case, you did what you had to do."
The tape was inadvertently made by licensed private investigator Stephanie Ware who had placed an audio tape recorder in plain view on the table while she videotaped the proceeding. When she followed the twins out of the room after the hearing, the recorder was left running on the table the whole time -- ironically leaving the photo ticketing officials with no expectation of privacy.
"By the way, I thought you did exceedingly well," the employee stated to the hearing officer.
"Me too," Tramel added.
Tramel, a public official, went on and joked about Ware behind the closed doors.
"I love the way she said 'Are you an attorney?' and you said 'You cannot speak' and then you said 'No,' Tramel said. "Bottom line is she is going to report that you are not an attorney. You wait and see."
When Ware went to retrieve her tape recorder, she found Tramel tampering with it in an attempt to erase the evidence. Ware does not know exactly how much or what was erased, but she estimates the tape has no more than a five minute gap. She also found it incredible that a city official would hold such a conversation with a hearing officer who is expected to maintain independence.
"This ex-parte communication behind closed doors, between Tramel, a public official, a supposedly independent adjudicator and a Redflex employee at the end of a public hearing, mocking the citizens of Lafayette, is a disgrace and a slap in the face to us all," Ware told TheNewspaper. "We need to get Lafayette back to normal, moving in the right direction, starting with a new Director of Transportation."
Listen to an MP3 recording of the tape (2.4mb download). A written transcript appears below.
Conversation after conclusion of RedFlex Hearing in Lafayette, Louisiana
TONY: How to solve this problem...just to let you know...that, that, the ordinance that says In accordance with Section 86 -- such and such... the records are ___ because we changed it three times.
FRED: Uh, uh...if his would have said that...
TONY: Oh, I know.
FRED: It would have gone...All of these past acts
TONY: Okay, now.
FRED: Close the door, please.
FEMALE: Give them the copy, correct?
FRED: Mmmm, hmmm
FEMALE: Keep the original?
FRED: That sort of came out of nowhere
MALE: Hey, it happens. I'm telling you this. In this particular case, you did what you had to do.
FRED: But, I mean like when we have parking tickets and they indicate the incorrect ordinance like what happened here, it doesn't matter if they are blocking a mile of traffic...
MALE: I mean, the answer is, there is not two sets of documents here...there is one set of documents yet the number changed but with the right amount of time...
FRED: Well, then we need to keep that generic thing...
TONY: We have solved the problem already because we went to just "Traffic Code 86 - such and such...whatever it is
FRED: Which is typical verbiage
TONY: The thing is, we thought we had one ordinance...we had one ordinance but we amended it twice and so that solved the problem.
MALE: I guess the question I have is...I still didn't understand the issue that he has an ordinance that said "X" and by that we are looking at something else here?
FRED: Well, that's the latest M.O. with them...
MALE: Is there a difference?
FRED: Well, the numbers are different. The only thing different is that my copy of his shows that (obviously pointing at the document).
TONY: Ahhhh, I got it now. I got it now.
MALE: The paper trail issue
TONY: Ahhhh, Absolutely!
FRED: I had to do that. I'm not even going to touch that.
TONY: I'm gonna tell you right now...if they...you might walk in and you better check that and be done with it every time and say "This is an apparent legal notification error or whatever you want to call it, and you can..."
MALE: By the way, I thought you did exceedingly well...
TONY: Me too
MALE: These guys are just aching to fightin' somebody...oh, they were just lookin' for anything.
FRED: [. . .], truth be told -- haha -- I trained before I came here.
MALE: ...and I stood back here because these guys were just looking for something.
FRED: Well, I mean...they want to bait you.
MALE: Yeh, and you never win there. Never win there.
TONY: I love the one..."Can you give me a copy of this fraudulent...what did he say?...
TONY: Falsified! I'm like where did that come from?
MALE: Two sets of documents? I'm like "No."
FRED: Okay, now who were all of those people? Is that Todd Elliott, one of those people?
TONY: The one in the sunglasses, I think is Todd Elliott. The other one is Steph...Stephanie Ware
TONY: Okay. I love the way she said "Are you an attorney?" and you said "You cannot speak" and then you said "No."
Bottom line is she is going to report that you are not an attorney. You wait and see.
TONY: I'm tellin' ya...that's what going to happen.
MALE: So, when all else fails you just make it up. Is that the deal?
TONY: She's the first one to that.
FRED: I did for their benefit, and I am going to continue to do it for everyone else...is go through the process.
MALE: Oh, I think that's perfect...I think that's absolutely perfect.
FRED: And, you know if there's a jump off point where...okay...you are going to end up seeing people so dissatisfied without any victory.
TONY: Here's one of my questions before you even get into that point...because you have these two experiences already...they showed you a citation that had an ordinance -- so and so -- but what happened is the ordinance number for that citation is from the wrong time period.
FRED: That is correct.
TONY: Let me also say one more thing. Check on this. The time when it's effective ___ the citation is issued, based on past thought is when we authorize it not when the citation was actually taken. I just want to let you know that.
TONY: I don't know if that's the case or not.
TONY: I started...I...I...I...started and I don't know how close it was.
FRED: Well, this is November 22
TONY: ______ time on this...Oh, when I did it? We thought about that too.
FRED: ...which is without it. So, even if that's sent out and says November 22nd, I don't know...I don't have [inaudible]
TONY: We just had this discussion yesterday or a couple of days ago about this because we are just capturing data on a certain time but until the person says "I believe you are, that's when the act took place."
FRED: Where is it on Abshire?...Is it October 7th? Phewwww
TONY: But the point is, we got this one right here and it's right on the money, uh...
FRED: Uh, I don't have a time, 9:07 -- time of....
TONY: It doesn't say on there and let me tell you right now...that's the 21st...it could be on either side...Here's the other question: "The ordinance is identical, except for about 10 words..."
FRED: I know.