Farmington ‘scofflaw’ parking fine change moves forward

A Farmington parking ordinance amendment that would increase fines for “scofflaw” violators moved one step closer to approval Monday.

If finalized at the city council’s next meeting, the new law would increase to $100 the penalty for four or more parking tickets. Officials first discussed the move at an August study session.

At that time, council member Maria Taylor asked whether a provision could be made for those who have a clean record for a number of years. During Monday’s meeting, Public Safety Director Frank Demers said, while it could be done, the department’s records supervisor had concerns about “human error”.

The CLEMIS records system, Demers explained, is not accessible to the city’s parking enforcement officer. Instead, the officer calls in a license plate, and the records clerk provides the information. If the clerk isn’t on duty, a police cadet would handle the call.

“A cadet isn’t as familiar with the process as our full-time records supervisor,” he said. “The problem is we do not have a computer in the car that the parking enforcement officer uses.”

That would cost the department an additional $700 per year, and the parking officer would have to go through security training required to deal with confidential records, he said. “The records clerk assured me it would be very difficult to remove the element of human error if we were to establish something with an established point of good behavior.”

That left Taylor with concerns over the severity of the penalty.

“We’ve basically sentenced people to the Farmington parking equivalent of a life sentence without parole,” she said, adding that it would add to the reputation the city already has for issuing parking tickets.

Council member Sara Bowman pointed out that parking enforcement is not a money-maker, but geared more toward “behavior modification.”

“Repeat offenders are a small group,” she said. “I don’t see this as an extreme. By the fourth time, you’re taking advantage of the system.”

Council member Bill Galvin, a member of the Parking Advisory Committee, said that a motorist could fight a ticket through the court system. He also noted that business owners who served on the committee favored the move.

“It would not be penalizing the vast majority of citizens and customers, and it would not harm the business environment,” he said. “In fact, it would support the business environment.”

Council member Joe LaRussa pointed out that officers will sometimes exercise discretion with speeding tickets and wondered whether that would apply with parking enforcement.

Demers said it would. If someone has gone several years without a ticket, the officer could let the magistrate know that a smaller fine would be acceptable.

The full meeting video is posted on Facebook; look for the parking discussion around the 42-minute mark: