Defenders Investigation: Privileged parking


by ANDY PIERROTTI / KVUE News and photojournalist DEREK RASOR

Bio | Email | Follow: @AndyP_KVUE

Posted on April 25, 2013 at 10:49 PM

Updated Monday, Apr 29 at 3:33 PM

AUSTIN -- Before you drive in Texas, you must survive a vehicle inspection. It's a state-mandated annual safety check-up that cost about $28 in most large cities.

While driving with an expired inspection could land you a ticket and a $1,000 fine, a KVUE Defenders investigation found some state elected officials and their staff getting away with it.

That includes state Representative Trey Martinez Fischer from San Antonio. He parks his Cadillac Escalade in a reserved parking spot just steps from the State Capitol. When the KVUE Defenders found him driving, his vehicle inspection sticker had expired three months ago.

Fischer told KVUE, “I had no idea." He contends he got busy and that, “people make mistakes. We're all human."

Walking around the statehouse grounds, the Defenders found nearly two dozen other lawmakers and staff with expired inspections. All were parked in a lot reserved lot just for state officials.

The Defenders also found Texas Senator Royce West from Dallas driving with an expired inspection sticker. His Cadillac Escalade’s inspection was expired about eight months by the time the Defenders found it.

Over the phone, Royce’s spokesperson explained, "It was an oversight and the senator no longer drives the same vehicle."

The Defenders also found vehicles with no inspection stickers. That includes a Sabb parked in a spot reserved for a state senator from Central Texas.

Another lawmaker includes state Representative Doug Miller of New Braunfels. The lawmaker's inspection sticker was expired five months by the time the Defenders found it.

An unidentified legislative staffer for Miller explained to the KVUE Defenders that he was going to fix it immediately. "Yea, that's where I'm headed right now," explained the staffer while driving away.

More than a dozen public safety officers walk the statehouse grounds each day, yet the Defenders never saw one of them write a ticket for an expired inspection.

In an email, the Texas Department of Public Safety wrote, "Since an expired inspection sticker is a traffic offense, citations can only be issued when the vehicle is in operation on a public roadway, which does not include a restricted access parking lot."

Still, Austin drivers argue law enforcement could write them tickets once lawmakers drive off Capitol grounds.

"Wow, that's not cool," explained Jessica Hernandez from Austin. She got a ticket for an expired inspection the day before the Defenders interviewed her. 

"I mean if I'm going to get in trouble, then they should get in trouble too,” said Hernandez.

The Defenders also found a Nissan Maxima with arguably the best parking spot at the Capitol. Its inspection was expired about six months when the Defenders found it.

Brandy Marty owns the car. She's also the chief of staff for Governor Rick Perry.

After repeated requests for a response went unanswered, the Defenders asked Perry to respond during a news conference a few weeks ago.

“The same reason why I probably had one six weeks ago. Overlooked it, and as far as I know, the chief of staff has replaced that, and we appreciate you patrolling the yard for us.” Perry explained.

While driving with an expired inspection isn’t a serious crime, the state says it keeps dangerous vehicles off Texas roads.

It also generates revenue. Last year, the state collected $206 million from vehicle inspections.

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