Deerfield man files civil lawsuit over $15 parking ticket

@ecutts_HG
Published: 6/22/2018 11:54:54 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A Deerfield man has filed a lawsuit alleging the city has failed to update its parking ordinance after installing new pay-by-plate meters and is not competent to issue parking tickets. The city, though, contends it has updated the ordinance’s language to reflect the parking kiosks.

The lawsuit, filed on June 15 in Hampshire Superior Court by Reza Shafii, seeks reimbursement of court costs and fees as well as $15 for the parking ticket and an order that the city not issue any more parking tickets “until such a time it has updated its ordinance to comply with its procedures for new meters.”

“I feel that the ticket they are issuing for the computerized meter, not the meters that you put a quarter in that is next to each parking spot, they are not in compliance with the city ordinance ... to me, those tickets are all illegal,” Shafii said. “It benefits them very quickly to realize and ticket people but they haven’t bothered to update their ordinance.”

In the lawsuit, Shafii states that he received a parking ticket at 8:27 a.m. on Feb. 22, 2018 — three minutes after his paid parking expired. Shafii appealed the ticket, which originally stated his meter had expired at 8:24 p.m., and was denied. He then requested a hearing on the ticket, which took place on March 28. At the hearing, a city parking administrator ruled that the 8:24 p.m. was a typo and should have read 8:24 a.m. The city ruled that the parking meter was expired three minutes prior to the issuance of the ticket, and therefore the ticket was valid, according to court documents.

“The city of Northampton, however, failed to provide any documents to support that the ticket was issued in compliance with the City’s ordinance, or to prove the accuracy of the time between the parking meter and the ticketing computer,” Shafii wrote. “The city has also neglected to update its ordinance with regard to the new meters installed along Main Street.”

According to the city ordinance updated in January 2018, the owner or operator of any vehicle parked next to a parking meter “shall immediately deposit in such meter the required coin of the United States for the maximum legal parking period or proportionate period thereof ...”

Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz said the city’s parking ordinance was modified in 1997 to say a parking meter was either a mechanical coin-operated parking meter or a pay station kiosk.

In his lawsuit, Shafii also alleges that by requiring a $275 filing fee for a hearing it is a violation of the ticket recipients Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to protection from deprivation of property without due process of law.

Shafii’s case is not the first time a western Massachusetts resident has fought their ticket in court. In 2005, a Greenfield man, Vincent Gillespie, took his then $10 parking ticket to court and won. That suit also required the city of Greenfield to revise its ticket appeal process to allow for an in-person hearing, which is now in place.

Gillespie in 2011 lost a separate civil case when the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that it was fair to require ticket appeals to go to superior courts because the $275 filing fee discourages frivolous complaints.

In a letter to the city, Shafii asked the city to consider adding a five-minute grace period when a meter runs out.

Narkewicz said adding in a grace period wasn’t something that could be done. He said that if the city is going to fine somebody for a set period of time there needs to be a set period of time that you have to pay for.

“Then you have to set a fine for if you exceed that time limit and don’t pay,” Narkewicz said. “The law is either the law or the law plus some additional accommodation. It’s not really something that one could do other than to set the time at two hours and three minutes.”

Narkewicz added that the city has made significant investments over the last several years to make parking more user-friendly and more convenient, including adding the option to pay by credit card.

“The goal is not to give out parking tickets,” Narkewicz said. “The goal is to manage the system in a way to maintain an adequate parking supply for customers who need to find parking downtown.”

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.


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