Planet Princeton

Prosecutor’s Office to Meet with Princeton Officials Next Week to Discuss Parking Meter Scandal

IMG_3402The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office sent out an email this afternoon to inform reporters that a representative from the office will be meeting with Princeton officials next week to talk about the recent parking meter scandal.

“We will be meeting with Princeton officials and law enforcement representatives next week to discuss its investigation into the parking issue, and why that investigation has not resulted in criminal charges being filed,” reads the email.

Some officials have questioned whether criminal charges will be filed in the case. Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller contacted the prosecutor’s office this morning to ask whether charges would be filed.

“Residents keep asking me about the issue,” Crumiller said. “They deserve answers.”

One parking meter enforcement officer was fired and a second one was demoted after the town investigated whether employees of some businesses were allowed to park at expired meters all day and at two-hour parking spaces all day in exchange for food and other goods. Planet Princeton broke the story about the arrangement after a business owner and a resident complained to the news website. The employees were suspended without pay the day after the story was published.

More than 16 cars were regularly parked along Humbert Street and Greenview Avenue all day, almost every day, for example. The driver of each vehicle left a menu, sticker, coaster, shopping bag or other item on the dashboard to signify which business they worked for so they would not get ticketed. Several cars were also parked at meters all day in the parking lot behind CVS and were never ticketed, for example.

Asked for a report on the issue at the Princeton Council meeting last night, Administrator Robert Bruschi reviewed the case and answered questions.

“After one of the online media sources ran a story, we launched a full-scale internal investigation  and one of the officers was terminated. Another was demoted and put back to work in the parking garage and received a 4-week unpaid suspension,” Bruschi said. “Only the one appeared to have gotten anything in return for not doing his job, whether overlooking enforcement or exchanging goods, that kind of thing, preferential treatment.”

Bruschi said the other officer was demoted because he did not follow proper procedures when handling a ticket.

“This is another dark day for us,” Bruschi said of the scandal some residents have dubbed Parking-Gate, Meter-Gate, and Play to Park.

“As we go through all these things, we’ve tried to find the silver lining,” Bruschi said. “We are trying to come up with a system where we can prevent this from happening again, or at least make it much more difficult for an individual to be able to be in a position to do this.”

Bruschi said currently a part-time enforcement officer is picking up additional hours and meter enforcement is being supplemented with police patrols. The parking enforcement officers are supervised by the police department, he said.

“I am hopeful we can come up with some system over the next week. Until we do, we won’t hire anyone,” Bruschi said. “We will review the job descriptions to see what changes can be made so we can get to a point where we can feel better about sending employees back out on the street.”

Bruschi said at the administrative level and the police level, he has spent significant time speaking to police and people who conduct inspections to make sure they are aware of town policies and that accepting goods is a career-ending move.

“We want to make sure staff understand that we have a  no-tolerance policy,” he said. “As far as the businesses, I’m  not sure what we can do. Someone mentioned the courtesy visit paid to businesses recently. That was done in conjunction with and as a follow up to the investigation. They were fully interviewed. We did not get to every business. We paid attention to those establishments we thought might be more susceptible to these kinds of things. We asked for their help. We don’t want our officers put in a bad position. We will remind them periodically from this point forward. Hopefully wont happen again, but one never knows.”

Bruschi told the council the matter was sent to the prosecutor’s office and is  “in their hands” for them to deal with as they see fit.

“They have the information and our reports. I can’t comment on any information in the reports. It is potentially a criminal matter and the investigation is ongoing,” Bruschi said. “Hopefully we’ll have some answer soon.  The media has covered this well. We are looking to move away from this black eye now, get this healed, and get this office on operating terms.”

Butler asked how much potential revenue the municipality lost because of money not being put in the meters.

“I have no real idea how we would look at that,” Bruschi said. “A lot of the preferential enforcement was done in two-hour zones. That is ticketing revenue, not meters. A ticket is $40. The state skims some off. We have no way of knowing how many meters or people were not ticketed, or whatever the deal was.”

Bruschi told the governing body he has also received other tips by members of the community about other issues since the meter story broke.

“There are some other items people thought are not kosher in the central business district in terms of the way they are handled,” Bruschi said. “Hopefully we will not get a slew of them. We received a couple of tips on things that do not seem right to people.”

Butler asked how many businesses were involved in the deal with the enforcement officer.

“More than one,” Bruschi said. “We got to a place where we got enough information to terminate one employee because of the management at one of the restaurants. The management was aware.”

Crumiller asked how just one employee could be involved in the arrangement in order for it to work.

“Another offer issued tickets to some of the people who were not supposed to be getting tickets because of the deals made,” Bruschi said. “A ticket was issued to one of them. The ticket came back. It’s one of ways we were able to tie this together.”

During public comment, resident  Chip Crider suggested that businesses involved in the deal be required to perform community service.

“Being a parking meter enforcement officer is a thankless job. How can you do that job and have people still say hello to you?” Crider said. “If you look at the winners and losers here, the biggest loser was the police department. They don’t need bad publicity. You people lost. The government you control lost. Collectively we lost revenue, and the population lost places to park in because spaces were not turning over.”

“The winners were the merchants who participated in the scheme, and the employees,” he said. “Will they receive a summons and be prosecuted? It’s unlikely. Personally I think the merchants involved owe the town big time public service, perhaps Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner for the less fortunate…Shame them by passing a resolution that they need to give back in light of what has gone on, and maybe something good will come out of this.”

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.

  • Princetongirl

    Nevr said that The parking in this town is nuts and people are taking it out on the Ticket guys! Consilidation~Conspiracy??

  • Princetongirl

    so tell me why there were NO parking spaced for employees, waitresses , waiters? Where is the “free” on-street parking in town I havent seen any? I disagree with you as I have been in town to shop ras of last FRi and never saw a FREE spot?? Please tell us all where???

  • PrettySmart1

    So you don’t want to pay for parking or park a mile away, but you expect customers to do so.

  • Princetongirl

    Actuall its doesnt as there will be no businesses any more if the merchants and employees cannot park close…being a previous employee for many years of a retail store in town I fed the meters, moved my car and fed them again! This was before these guys were even retired yet I can also mention a few officers back then who would allow that all over town! There was no way managing a store and parkng a mile away would work nor could I afford a parking spot! Believe me merchats/employees do not take up that much parking space and the town is and already has lost thousands because of this! Have fun!

  • SFB

    I really don’t agree that it is difficult to find parking downtown. The Spring Street garage almost never fills up, and there is loads of free on-street parking within 5 mins walk of anywhere in town. Not only is there plenty of parking, but there is plenty of free parking. Just maybe not right outside the store that you are going to.

  • PrettySmart1

    You would think the local merchants would realize that monopolizing the parking spaces makes it more difficult to shop downtown (and it is undeniably difficult to find parking to shop downtown).

  • Ptongirl

    20 minutes slack on meters? Please that will be costly just to “adjust” them! Apparently you havent seen these parking guys in action, school crossings, directing traffic, helping others in many ways (residents and visitors find places to park , giving directions,and alot more than just giving tickets,) no need to explain as you’re clueless! It is a thankless job and these guys were just trying to make everyone work together in a busy town! Nothing different than the Cops getting a free coffee for keeping our town safe!

  • kale

    Perhaps you should apply?

  • Winston

    While the prosecutors are there…can they also investigate Brushi and Monzo rather than chase nickles and dimes, go look for real money.

  • Stu

    Both men should be fired and not be allowed to be re-employed in NJ public service. The parking authority vehicles, which are always blocking traffic, should be sold and all of the parking employees should walk a beat. While they’re out there, they can pick up litter and help the visitors (who are responsible for our downtown’s economic vitality).

    And everyone should get 20 minutes slack on meters.

    The town employees, including the police, need to go to charm school. I guess I can understand why the cops are always so cranky, though. The former police chief was certainly a piece of work.

  • Tanya

    Since when is bribing a government officer not a criminal offence? And when is accepted a bribe not a criminal offence? The fact that no money changed hands does not stand up as goods and services is the same as money. And by the way not issuing tickets is using town funds for favors. Both sided should be prosecuted

  • Blake Cash

    If there was an investigation, and a violation worthy of that minimal actions taken so far took place, then there were multiple parties involved.

    At least sixteen vehicles? Seems like there is evidence which should be public record, license plates, the “flag” involved (indicating the business), etc.

    Oh, this is Princeton. Just sweep it under the rug.

Events Calendar

« August 2017 » loading...
M T W T F S S
31
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
1
2
3

Instagram

  • The book sale at the Princeton Public Library is in full swing. So crowded it's hard to move around. Sale today and tomorrow.#princeton #books

Follow Us

%d bloggers like this: