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Town of Princeton Fires One Parking Attendant in Meter-Gate Scandal

A car with an Olive's menu sits at an expired meter all day in Nov. of 2012, yet is never ticketed.Photo supplied courtesy of a resident.
A car with an Olives menu sat at an expired meter all day in Nov. of 2012, yet was never ticketed. Photo courtesy of a resident.

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.

A parking attendant's car was regularly parked in the loading zone in front of Olives.
A parking attendant’s car was regularly parked in the loading zone in front of Olives. Photo courtesy of a resident.

“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.

A parking enforcement vehicle with a case of beverages loaded from a local business. Photo courtesy of a resident.
A parking enforcement vehicle with a case of beverages loaded from a local business. Photo courtesy of a resident.

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.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • RodneyA

    Princeton is not a civil service town, but there are other procedures that are supposed to be followed.

  • Ptongirl

    I highly doubt these meter guts did any of what youre ASSUMING FAAGSTRUM, I believe its this simple, they helped them park, found places to park (as this towns parking has been crazy since I have been here) and in return the vendors have them a free coffee here and there,, nothing more, no threats no “Pandering”~simple as that~the Cops have even done the same over the years and not just here in Princeton, all over the State ! Old news here!

  • Faagstrum

    The stores were involved in PAYOLA and yes they requested special services. and guilty of pandering (Pander. To pimp; to cater to the gratification of the lust of another. To entice or procure a person, by promises, threats, Fraud, or deception to enter any place in …..)

  • Faagstrum

    Just because one person is admitting to nepotism, it dose not prove the mayor innocent. The township and borough ignore Civil Service Hiring procedures.

  • Faagstrum

    Ask Ptongirl she is listed in the phone book that way?

  • Mustang

    great then more “employes were doing this and should have been “fired” along with these guys!! opps!! thats right , their the Fall Guys,”scape goats” with a pension and a salary and the knowledge of motor vehicle parking violations, being crossing guards, directing traffic and many more extra jobs that are not asked of just the regular “ticket guys” but still do with a smile! Now Princeton has lost two good men as well as thousands and thousands in the past month alone~~Oh well~

  • Piet

    True, but public employees have to follow an ethics policy that is not required of private businesses.

  • SFB

    That’s nonsense. What was demonstrated here was systematic corruption. However much the town lost in parking revenues after suspending corrupt officials was worth it to maintain public confidence in future parking operations. Minimum wage employees don’t have to park illegally. See my post above, there are at least 5 different legal alternatives to parking illegally.

  • InterestedTiger

    The parking police haven’t shown any sympathy in the past (except, I guess, for these businesses) Why should this change things?

  • InterestedTiger

    Why would anyone use their real name here?

  • InterestedTiger

    It seems that you are saying that the corruption is responsible for our friendly safe town. I think honest citizens would disagree.

  • InterestedTiger

    Let’s see. You make an unsubstantiated charge about Liz and I ask you what evidence you have. And then you get angry with me? Maybe you’re posting things that aren’t true?

  • TigerResident

    Those two guys committed fraud. The town is better off with them off the streets. If there is more corruption, it should be exposed as well.

  • Piet

    So you are suggesting that we don’t fire people who commit fraud because we might lose revenue while we replace them?

  • SFB

    nope. Lempert’s not perfect, but unless you know something new, she isn’t involved in hiring people inappropriately.

  • jvilla107

    As a business owner in the township i find it appalling that this act is being punished by dismissing one employee and reassigning another.
    What about the “intent to defraud” the township of thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, of revenue. The untold hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost income to businesses because 50-75 parking spots each day, in turn defrauding the state & federal government from potential sales taxes.
    Once again the Princeton “leaders” have displayed their complete disregard for the people of our township, the business of our township, and the rule of law.

  • SFB

    Please see the comment from @angarone:disqus above. It’s Ms Knapp by the way, with a ‘K’. Yes, I do trust what she writes and I think she does a great job. Just because parking corruption has been going on for a long time doesn’t make it OK, and the town is perfectly able to hire new meter guys who are legit.

  • RVRwlc

    Aha…Here we have a perfect example of an assumptions. I put three quarters in the meter because,after all, I am just running to Palmer Square for two quick stops…Only I run into an old friend from college I haven’t seen in years .We catch up and I forget about tim eand as I run back to the car the attendant is about to write me a ticket.Primary question :in New PlanetPrincetonLand will I best shown any mercy by law enforcement? Absolutely not.Secondary question:Did you make make an assumption I was meter feeding and it was illega?l.Definitely. I park in town to run errands. I don’t live or work in town.

  • RVRwlc

    You honestly think I am Chris Boutote You must be myopic.

  • SFB

    “How do you excpect (sic) the employees of this shops to work?”

    1. Walk to work.
    2. Bicycle to work.
    3. Take the bus to work.
    4. Park your car in a municipal garage.
    5. Park your car for free on one of the many, many unrestricted streets to the north of downtown, and walk 5-10 mins to work.

    There are 5 options that you have, none of which requiring parking illegally.

  • Mustang

    Because Ms. Napp has nothing better to do??

  • DBDO

    it is? opps then I should be fired too! I have been working in this own for over 25 years and thats what I do!! Note~ Not ONCE have these meterguys cut me a break and Im still feeding the meter when I go in today! How do you excpect the employees of this shops to work?

  • Tigercat

    And you believe what this woman Krystal Napp writes? ha ha ha She doesnt touch on the real hirings of these daughters~~Hey Krystal you missed something and just wait until this “Twp” realizes whats been going on in this town for decades with parking and otherwise! Im sure its already lost thousands of dollars since these meter guys have been off the streets ! Nice job Ms. Napp!

  • SWSxmd

    Dear RVRwlc, meter feeding is illegal.

  • SFB

    HB24 and InterestedTiger, you guys ought to read this: http://princeplanet.wpengine.com/2013/01/14/some-municipal-employees-bristle-at-hiring-of-princeton-deputy-administrators-daughters/
    Notice that it- if there is a story at all- the Mayor is not involved.

  • RVRwic

    Im sure Mr. Boutote has “other” options out there AND HAS NO TIME FOR POSTING HERE! Find someone else to pick on now~since you have nothing better to do!

  • HB24

    Ask her since you have nothing better to do!

  • kali

    the writer was motivated by residents fed up with their streets being used as parking lots by local businesses. the police failed to do anything about it. thanks to krystal knapp who listened and printed an article that the town officials couldn’t blow off the way they blew off the residents.

  • angarone

    It amazes me how people get upset when someone points out a crime, or an injustice.

  • GreenPea

    Thank you for posting, Mr. Boutote. I hope you find a new way to feed yourself in retirement.

  • SAFETOWN

    Got away with it??No one got away with anything here~I seems these guys didnt “collect” in exchange for tickets, This has been going on in this town ever since the meters were installed!Wake up Rightsaidfred~~Police and Top brass have been collecting from places and stores not even mentioned on here for well over 30 years~~~also for it to be going on places of eatery and stores were working with them as well to establish a friendly safe town were people want to visit and shop! Now SIR get ready to PAY!

  • Ptongirl

    If your a “resident” how come you dont use your rEAL NAME???

  • RVRwlc

    Meter gate scandal…and Krystal Knapp is not biased? Thanks for sharing. At any rate someone new will be ticketing in town,and life moves on.Don’t expect any kindness when you are out of parking time and are runnning to your meter to add a quarter.You contribute in creating your culture and while you feel you may have accomplished something here with photos of vehicles ad nauseum, the zeal of the journalistic pursuit leaves more than than this reader questioning the motivations and conclusions of the writer.

  • HPton

    I’m shocked at the salaries paid to parking attendants. There are many public school teachers who don’t earn that amount. Is this really a high-skilled job?

  • rightsaidfred

    Are you serious? Your defending these two?

    What bias could Krystal Knapp possibly have? Did Mr. Boutote ticket her bicycle or something?

    And what is up with all the CAPS?

    This has been going on for years. Every resident in the boro had known about it, including several of the other local businesses that decided not to pay to play.

    It’s just now something was finally done about because Planet Princeton made it impossible to one more time sweep it under the rug. My only question is exactly how far up the food chain this went since for years this was never addressed despite complaints from several local residents. Residents from this town in this county in this state.

    Safe streets? What do you think this is, Camden? These guys were parking enforcement, not the A-Team.

    These two got caught doing something they shouldn’t have and now they are being punished for it. A little too lightly in my opinion.

    It’s more unbelievable that they got away with it for as long as they did.

  • InterestedTiger

    Mr. Boutote wrote this Princeton resident a false ticket for parking for more than two hours even though it was only 90 minutes. It seemed strange at the time. Now it’s clear that one had to make up for these other tickets that weren’t getting written.

  • InterestedTiger

    Who are the family members who were hired?

  • RVRwlc

    BIASED JOUNALISM
    It’s apparent these “residents” have nothing to do but take photos that prove nothing. Could the driver have purchased those containers? Could they have been placed there? Of COURSE you don’t know, Planet Princeton…A “resident” took the photo. A resident of what country? Seriously? Pathetic .Your photos prove nothing….OK Mr. Boutote is not employed by the Princeton PD anymore–even less revenue for Princeton now and the streets are less safe too. It’s apparent someone has to deflect attention from the glaring errors of Chief Dudeck and scapegoat others. Planet Princeton, this is irresponsible journalism, and people of Princeton, Mr. Boutote has left your midst, to YOUR detriment. Now, the only question left, folks, is who you are you going to direct your feeding frenzy on tomorrow?

  • HB24

    Nah None~~ then the Mayor would have charges against her for “double dipping” too!! Its not new news she hired two family members from within!

  • Mustang

    One to new news people! This has been going on for years in any town/city who have “parking attendants” as well as COPS. Guess you have never heard of Dunkin Donuts? Its amazing how people have nothing better to talk about here~take their jobs, they will move onto better things and this town will suffer and already has when new people come in to ticket and the town/business want a “break”!

  • joesal

    No criminal charges – really?

  • DAM

    I wonder if this investigation includes what, if any charges, can/should be brought against the businesses who participated. Kinda like bribery, no?

  • SFB

    It strikes me as very generous not to fire Hughes too. If he knew about the scam, he should clearly be fired. The only way he could keep his job is by claiming that he didn’t know about what was going on. But that seems impossible for a start, plus he’s currently the subject of administrative action, so clearly Bruschi thinks he knew something. If he is ‘offered the chance to retire’, that sounds a lot like what happened to ex chief-of-police Dudeck, and look how that turned out!

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