CBS46 News has learned Yafet Bekele, the head of safety and security for the city of Atlanta's Department of Watershed Management, has returned to work after being suspended for racking up thousands of dollars in fines on the I-85 HOT lanes.
A source within city government said an investigation into the $5,672 in delinquent tolls and fines uncovered a clerical error which led violation notices to be sent to a different city office.
Bekele was suspended Wednesday, hours after investigative reporter Jeff Chirico questioned city leaders about a city-owned vehicle that, according to State Road and Tollway Authority documents, had violated the HOT lanes 196 times.
According to the SRTA document, the city of Atlanta owed $5,672.70 in tolls and fees.
The source said SRTA has waived $4900 in fines but Bekele will be required to pay $772.70 in tolls out of his own pocket. Bekele was told he can return to work Friday.
The State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) releases the following statement:
"After review of the violations associated with vehicle license plate number GV2903C registered to the City of Atlanta, we have determined that when Mr. Yafet Bekele added the vehicle to his personal toll account in April 2012, the license plate number was entered incorrectly as GB2903C. Therefore, our system did not match up this car with his personal toll account, and as a result violation notices were generated and properly sent to the City of Atlanta (the registered owner of the vehicle with the State of Georgia). A dozen notices were sent to the address the car is registered to with the Department of Revenue. There were no returned notices to SRTA due to an incorrect address.
It is important to note that all tolls are charged to the Peach Pass account holder, which in this case was Mr. Bekele. In a situation where a clerical error, through no fault of the customer, generated the violations, the customer is only responsible for the tolls charged on the trips, not any fines or fees that accumulated.
We are in touch with Mr. Bekele and are resolving his account. This serves as an important reminder for Peach Pass customers to regularly check their account and ensure SRTA has the correct and updated license plate number, credit card number, address and any other pertinent information on file."
Bekele was one of five Watershed leaders recently given controversial pay raises by Director Jo Ann Macrina. Mayor Kasim Reed reversed the raises after indicating he had not approved them.
Macrina gave Bekele a $15,000 increase, taking his annual salary to $125,000.
Watershed, which has faced previous incidents of theft and alleged mismanagement, is being investigated by the mayor's office and city auditor.
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