BOSTON (CBS) – In Massachusetts tolls are right up there with death and taxes, but the I-Team has discovered not everyone is paying their fair share at the tolls. Who’s getting that sweet deal? Some of your state lawmakers.
I-Team cameras spotted Representative Thomas Petrolati of Ludlow, Representative Ben Swan of Springfield and Representative John Scibak of South Hadley with an orange carpool E-ZPass transponder on their windshields. It’s the same size and shape as a regular transponder with one very big difference. After you pay an initial fee of about a hundred dollars, your commute is free for the rest of the year.
The idea, according to Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey, is to reduce traffic by getting cars off the road. In order to qualify you have to sign a document saying that you will have at least three licensed drivers in your car. It’s an honor system because there is no one checking the headcount as these cars pass through the tolls.
But our cameras spotted Representative Swan going through the tolls with just one other person in the car with his orange transponder clearly visible. That’s a violation. We also saw Thomas Petrolati going through the tolls in Ludlow and again in Weston with just one person in the car. The I-Team also captured video of Representative John Scibak making the 90 mile trip from South Hadley, all by himself.
According to Secretary Davey, it just isn’t fair. “We’ve had to raise tolls and raise the gas tax recently to invest in our system. Folks should be paying their fair share, regardless of their station in life,” he said. We asked Davey if there was any question in his mind these lawmakers were scamming the system. “I don’t think there’s any question that they are scamming the system,” he said.
Representative Scibak was the only lawmaker willing to sit down with the I-Team. “It wasn’t an intentional scam,” he told us. Scibak says he simply forgot the transponder was there. “After receiving your call, I went out, I took the transponder off the car,” he said. He also told us he paid back nearly $700 in tolls to the state.
But that’s where the cooperation ended. The I-Team contacted Representative Swan, but he never returned our calls. We tried to talk to him outside his Springfield home. We asked if he had been abusing the carpool transponder. Angrily, he responded, “No I have not.” When we told him we had video of him, he said he didn’t believe us.
Representative Petrolati also never returned our calls. We went to his home and his district office, but we were told that he would not talk to us. However, in a phone conversation with his chief of staff, she said it was all a simple mistake that he had made once or twice. She said the representative had also decided to return the transponder to the state after we called.
Secretary Davey told the I-Team lawmakers should lead by example. “I think you would expect a much higher level of compliance, of honesty, frankly, from a lawmaker,” he said.
These are not the only lawmakers with the carpool transponders. The I-Team has learned that there are at least four others who have them.
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