DART u-turn on expenses row with volunteer driver

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DOWN Armagh Rural Transport (DART) has performed a u-turn on a decision to withhold expenses from a former volunteer after he received a parking ticket.

DART had told Dwyer French they were withholding expenses he was owed while volunteering for the company until he proved he had paid the parking ticket.

Mr French had received the ticket while reinstalling seats he had earlier removed from the DART minibus to accommodate wheelchair-bound passengers he had taken to a local stroke group.

However, the minibus was parked in a disabled parking bay and, while Mr French went into the DART premises to wash his hands, a traffic warden issued him with a penalty ticket.

DART told the Mail last week that the company was not responsible for paying the ticket even though the minibus was being used for DART business.

They insisted Mr French, who was volunteering with DART while looking for a job, pay the fine.

Mr French revealed to the Mail that due to his financial circumstances he was going to find it difficult to pay the fine.

After the Mail published the story, Mr French said he was even more astounded when DART told him they would be withholding expenses he was owed by them until he proved he had paid the penalty ticket.

An email to Mr French from DART stated that they were withholding the expenses: “until evidence that the parking ticket has been paid is presented to the DART office, or evidence that your appeal of the parking ticket has been successful.

“As per our conversations with you, it is our policy that drivers pay fines arising out of negligence. Once we receive receipt of confirmation of payment or a successful appeal we will release your expenses without further delay. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

The former volunteer then sought legal advice and threatened to bring DART to the small claims court.

The Mail also contacted DART to find out why the expenses were being withheld.

Then DART sent a copy of an email which had been sent to Mr French on Tuesday December 18, stating: “Dwyer, Your eligible expenses for November & December 2012 are now being processed. As the driver that incurred the parking fine, you are eligible for the parking ticket in full. DART consider this matter closed.”