It was late in the evening of Nov. 30 when Michael Plantz realized his license plates were set to expire the next morning.
Hoping to ward off a ticket, the Edgewater neighborhood resident logged on to the Illinois secretary of state website and renewed his registration.
To prove he paid before the deadline, he printed out the receipt, which was time-stamped at 11:55 p.m.
He placed the receipt on the window of his car, hoping it would ward off would-be be ticket writers.
On Dec. 3 and again Dec. 4, before the new registration sticker arrived in the mail, Plantz received tickets for "expired plates or a temporary registration."
He contested both citations, sending in identical information for both. He included a letter explaining that he renewed his registration before it expired but the sticker had not yet arrived.
With each letter, he sent a copy of the receipt showing the registration was paid Nov. 30.
In late January, Plantz received rulings in the mail on both tickets, both issued by administrative law judge Michelle Askew.
For the Dec. 3 citation, Askew ruled in Plantz's favor, saying, "it is the finding of this administrative law judge that the information submitted supports a determination that the violation did not occur."
Consequently, she wrote, "you are not responsible for the fine."
Plantz was elated.
Then he opened the second letter.
For the Dec. 4 citation, Askew wrote, "it is the finding of the administrative law judge that the information submitted supports a determination that the violation occurred. Consequently, as the registered owner, you are responsible for the fine of $60."
Plantz was so confused, he wrote to What's Your Problem?
"Aside from the fact my plates were renewed legally before expiration and I am at no fault, to receive two different findings, by the same administrative judge, for the same violation where the same defense and evidence was submitted is absolutely ridiculous!" he wrote. "No wonder it draws ubiquitous laughs when the city repeatedly proclaims its traffic and parking enforcement isn't driven by profit."
He said he had no desire to file an appeal, because doing so would cost more than the $60 citation.
"I don't care about the $60. If I was wrong, I'll pay it," Plantz said. "But to me, it came across as 'we're going to get money out of you somehow.' It should have been the same ruling, the same decision, in both cases."
The Problem Solver sent Plantz's information to Patricia Jackowiak, director of the city's Department of Administrative Hearings.
After reviewing the cases, Jackowiak said Askew ruled appropriately. In fact, Jackowiak said, Askew cut Plantz a break.