The two employees for the town of Princeton who enforce parking regulations have been suspended without pay pending the outcome of an investigation into whether they gave preferential treatment to employees of some local businesses, Princeton Administrator Robert Bruschi confirmed this morning.
The suspensions came a day after Planet Princeton published a story detailing what appears to be a system of “play to park”, in which some business owners and employees of restaurants, delis, coffee shops and other stores were given a free pass to park at expired meters and park all day in two-hour parking spots, possibly in exchange for free food or beverages.
In many cases employees placed menus, shopping bags, coasters, stickers or business cards on the dashboard of their vehicles to signify they worked for a particular business. These vehicles never received tickets. In a few cases it appears that the car was known to enforcement personnel by the make, model and license plate, as has been witnessed by residents, employees of some businesses, and Planet Princeton.
Residents and some business owners have become increasingly frustrated at the selective lack of enforcement and lack of responsiveness when the issue has been reported to police. One Humbert Street resident called police at least three times last week and said she got the brush off. More than 16 cars were parked on Humbert Street and Greenview Avenue but never received tickets. Each vehicle had some sort of business identifier on the dashboard.
“I have been a resident of Humbert st in Princeton for 16 years. This street is a 2-hour parking zone. My daughter recently received a ticket for parking just over the 2 hour limit, and I myself have received a ticket for parking on my own street when workmen were parked in my driveway,” wrote the resident. “For several weeks now, cars have been parked on Humbert Street from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. On investigation, these cars all have a D’angelos menu or some designation visible on the dash board.
“When I called the police, they said there was not much they could do,” the resident wrote. “When I replied `you could ticket those cars as they are illegally parked’ they promised they would check this out. They did not, and the cars remained on Humbert Street unticketed.”
The resident was told she her complaint would be referred to a supervisor and on one called her back. Then she was told she would have to talk to a sergeant but that he was out. The resident finally received a call back about an hour after the story about the parking issue was reported on Planet Princeton.
Residents and business owners say the suspension of the two meter personnel is not enough. They are calling for a full investigation to determine whether some police officers were participants in the arrangement with employees of food establishments.