FasTrak wants to keep tolling policies a secret

ByMichael Finney and Renee Koury KGO logo
Saturday, February 8, 2020
FasTrak keeps secrets as contentious trial begins
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Lawyers representing the transit agencies in a class action lawsuit against FasTrak accuse the other side of misconduct in service of a "money grab" lawsuit.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- FasTrak and the Golden Gate Bridge District made a new attempt this week to shut the public out of the courtroom during parts of a class action trial against them. Also, the company that runs FasTrak claims the class action lawyers have been lying to the court and fabricating evidence for years.

This class action is growing more contentious as the testimony is about to begin. You may recall the lawsuit claims thousands of motorists were unfairly charged for toll evasion and penalties on the Golden Gate Bridge. Transit agencies asked a judge to ban the public and media from entering the courtroom during much of the trial. They say their toll collection policies should be kept a secret from all of us, or we might use it to cheat the system and avoid paying tolls. Now, a new attempt to throw out the whole case.

This all began when the Golden Gate Bridge switched to all-electronic tolling back in 2013. The following year, a quarter million drivers received toll evasion penalties -- five times the previous rate.

Drivers without FasTrak were supposed to receive toll invoices in the mail. However, class action attorneys claim thousands never received their invoices, mostly due to address mistakes.

RELATED: FasTrak wants to keep secret from the public about how it handles tolls and penalties

"I didn't get sent one notice. Ever," said motorist and class action plaintiff Michael Saliani.

The lawsuit claims FasTrak didn't try to find the motorists, but simply piled on penalties.

"The policy was that if the mail went out and came back as undeliverable as addressed, they shredded the mail and imposed a penalty." said class action attorney Adam Guttride.

Now FasTrak and the Golden Gate Bridge District say they've improved their policies for handling tolls and disputes. However, they want to keep those policies a secret, saying motorists might use the information to quote "game the system" and "avoid paying tolls and violation penalties."

To that end, the transit agencies asked a judge to ban the public from the courtroom when confidential policies are discussed. 7 On Your Side objected, saying public policies are supposed to be open to the public -- not kept secret.

RELATED: Judge rules FasTrak court case must be open to public, but toll policies can remain secret

On Wednesday, transit agencies tried again to ban spectators during some of the trial. The judge so far is keeping the courtroom open, but suggested attorneys could avoid bringing up that secret information.

Also, in a stunning move on Wednesday, transit lawyers filed papers accusing the class action attorneys of misconduct and fraud. They say their lawsuit was "a money grab" from the start, based on "falsehoods,'' "fraud" and altered documents.

Gutride told the judge the allegations are baseless, intended to stop him from preparing for trial.

So what is it that FasTrak is trying to hide from all of us? 7 On Your Side is continuing to object to the secrecy of FasTrak policies. Let us know what you think.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.