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Published: Wednesday, 6/17/2009

Toledo residents ticketed for parking on their own graveled spaces

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Charles Robertson looked out the window of his North Holland- Sylvania Road home last week and saw a woman standing over his pickup truck with a pad and pen.

"I went outside and when I got out there she was putting a ticket on the windshield," Mr. Robertson said.

"She looked at me and said, 'You have a ticket because you've parked on stone and that's illegal,'" he said.

After 43 years of parking on his own "gravel driveway" without a citation, Mr. Robertson was shocked - as were six of his neighbors in the 400 and 500 blocks of North Holland-Sylvania who received tickets for the same reason Thursday.

Sue Frederick, commissioner of Toledo's division of streets, bridges, and harbor, wrote the seven tickets to residents for parking on gravel or stone-covered surfaces - many of which were turnarounds not leading to garages.

The residents complained to the city after receiving the $25 tickets for parking their vehicles on their own driveways.

Ms. Frederick declined to comment yesterday but Mayor Carty Finkbeiner called her a hero for the city.

On Monday, the mayor said he would stand by the citations handed out last week. During a news conference, Mr. Finkbeiner refused to answer reporters' questions about whether the crackdown and fines were related to the city's budget crisis.

Mr. Finkbeiner said the tickets were issued under a city law against parking on unpaved surfaces, including gravel driveways.

Councilman D. Michael Collins, whose district includes the homes where the tickets were issued, said he would make certain that the homeowners do not have to pay the $25 fines.

"I would hope the city would realize this was an exercise in insanity and rescind the tickets," Mr. Collins said. "Those who work for the mayor, it is like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, where those who are all insane flock together."

Mr. Collins said Ms. Frederick went onto private property and wrote the tickets without authority.

"The people ticketed would have to pay $50 to appeal a $25 ticket to a board that does not exist," Mr. Collins said.

He promised to pay the fines himself if they are not rescinded.

Ronald Cousino, 46, a truck driver who lives at 419 North Holland-Sylvania, came back from vacation and found the ticket.

"I was very upset because it's my own property - it's not city property," Mr. Cousino. "I watched the mayor's news conference [Monday] and he is basically calling us ignorant for parking on our own property."

Mr. Cousino said his son was home when the ticket was issued.

"My son asked her for identification and she wouldn't produce it," he said.

"My neighbor next to me asked her to move her car off his driveway and she said she didn't have to because she is a city employee and can go anywhere she wants on [his] property."

The city's commissioner of Streets, Bridges, and Harbor is permitted to ticket vehicles.

Dave Welch, who formerly held the position for the city, said the power to ticket vehicles was granted to the head of Streets, Bridges, and Harbor to alleviate the need to call a police officer when a vehicle is blocking a street where snow or leaves must be removed or a street sweeper is working.

A statement from the city said Ms. Frederick, who carries a city-issued badge on the job, was responding to a citizen complaint made to the Toledo Board of Community Relations.

"She personally observed that it was a valid complaint. She observed several illegally parked vehicles along the first street she visited," the statement said.

"While there, a neighbor asked her to check out his street, which also had a number of illegally parked vehicles. Once she observed they too were illegally parked, she cited them as well."

The story broke nationally on the eve of the mayor's trip to Tampa this morning to help audition Toledo to be named an All-America City again.

The president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association said he may go to court to prevent employees from the city's streets department from writing parking tickets.

"This falls under police duty and police are the only ones who can take law enforcement action," said Dan Wagner, the police union president.

Both Mr. Collins and Mr. Wagner said crushed-stone surfaces are a type of pavement.

"When I would go out to someone's house, I wouldn't even issue a ticket," Mr. Wagner said.

"I would say, 'If you want to park in this area like on grass, you have to have it paved.'•"

Ms. Frederick was formerly manager of the city's code enforcement.

In 2005, a dispute over a parked car and a city recycling truck escalated into confrontation that led police to arrest Ms. Frederick.

She was charged at the time with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors.

Ms. Frederick allegedly argued with the owner of a vehicle and threatened to have his vehicle towed.

After police asked her to stop, she continued and was arrested.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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