2/6/2006Pennsylvania: Ticket Fixing Dispute Erupts Into Political Battle
A parking ticket dispute gives insight into what happens if the police disagree with a town's ticketing policy.
A $15 parking ticket has created a battle between the police chief and township manager in Wilkins, Pennsylvania. The incident began on September 15, 2005 when Cheryl Buzzell, manager of the Treelady recording studio, called police about a car parked in her lot without her permission for two days. An officer dispatched to the scene gave it a $500 abandoned vehicle ticket.
Paul Burbine, 53, had parked his car there to work with Goodwill Industries and the Assistant Township Manager Paul Vargo in cleaning streambeds. Vargo ordered Police Chief Keith Guthrie to cancel the ticket, writing in a September 15 memo that the volunteers had permission to park.
"You are to withdraw this ticket immediately, and inform the recipient that it has been voided," Vargo wrote in the memo as cited by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Guthrie confirmed with Buzzell that no permission had been given for anyone to park in the Treelady lot. The volunteers were being paid with federal grant money. Guthrie stood firm, saying it was improper for him to fix the ticket and saying that it must be handled by the court. He only agreed that it should have been a $15 parking ticket and not an abandoned vehicle citation. Burbine pled guilty to the reduced charge.
By a 4-1 vote in October, Wilkins commissioners punished Chief Guthrie for insubordination with a ten-day suspension amounting to $2844 in lost pay. City Manager Rebecca Bradley suspended him for another five days in December on another dispute over a confidential letter.