One Princeton parking meter enforcement officer has been terminated over the Meter-Gate scandal and a second officer will meet with officials later this week, Princeton Administrator Robert Bruschi confirmed this afternoon.
Meter enforcement officer Chris Boutote was fired today for allegedly allowing employees of some downtown businesses to park at expired meters all day and at two-hour parking spaces all day in exchange for free food.
The investigation was concluded last week. Bruschi will meet with the other parking meter enforcement employee, John Hughes, later this week.
“This should hopefully be wrapped up by Wednesday,” Bruschi said in an email this afternoon. Officials have said Hughes will face significant administrative discipline but will likely not be fired. One source said Hughes will be offered the opportunity to retire.
Boutote, a retired police officer, receives a pension of about $4,400 per month and earned $48,109 per year as a meter man. Hughes earns $44,000 per year. Both men are at-will employees and are not part of a union. They report to Bruschi for disciplinary matters.
Both of the parking meter attendants were suspended without pay two weeks ago the day after Planet Princeton broke the story about how employees of several area businesses were being allowed to park illegally in exchange for free food and other items. Employees placed menus, shopping bags, stickers, business cards, bar coasters and other items on their dashboards to signify that they worked for a particular business. Those cars did not receive tickets, while residents and other visitors who parked at those same meters and on those same streets were promptly ticketed. Businesses included some coffee shops, chocolate shops, delis, bars, a pizzeria and a florist.
The pass on parking fines for employees of certain businesses became so widespread that more than 16 cars parked on Humbert Street and Greenview Avenue on a daily basis. One law enforcement source estimated that between 50 and 75 downtown employees were participating in the system some residents have called “play to park” and others have referred to as “Meter-Gate.”
The Princeton Police Department conducted an internal investigation after the issue was reported in order to make sure no police officers were involved, and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office was notified about the case. It does not appear that any criminal charges will be filed against either parking attendant, police sources said.
Business owners have been asked not to give free food to police personnel, which is a violation of police policies.