Grand Jury disagrees on parking citations
The city of South Lake Tahoe and the El Dorado County Grand Jury disagree over who has the authority to issue $250 parking citations for handicap parking spaces.
The city is using High Sierra Patrol, an independent security company, to issue citations. The Grand Jury claims the practice doesn’t follow state law.
“My position is that the vehicle code has a specific code section authorizing local authorities to enforce handicap parking laws,” said City Attorney Catherine DiCamillo.
Kenn Womack, foreman for the 2000-2001 El Dorado Grand Jury, said the city does not have the expressed right to hire an outside security company to issue parking citations for handicap parking spaces, because the vehicle code does not give the city specific authority to do so.
“The city of South Lake Tahoe has gone ahead and done what they want to do without creating the legal foundation to do that,” Womack said.
The Grand Jury says the state code does give the city the right to establish a special enforcement unit for the sole purpose of providing adequate enforcement for disabled parking spaces, but it does not give the city the specific right to contract, or in this case ask, an outside security company to do so.
“My interpretation of the vehicle code is the legislature by enacting (the state code pertaining to local enforcement of parking spaces) intended to give local authorities as many options as possible to have the handicap laws enforced,” she said.
She adds that since other cities use groups such as volunteer citizens, members of the disabled community and enforcement officers using a private security company is similar enough that it reflects precedents established throughout the state.
Womack said he agrees that handicap parking spaces need to be regulated, but the purpose of the Grand Jury is to make sure governments are following proper procedures – in this case, he believes the city has not.
The Grand Jury recommended the city cease using High Sierra Patrol to enforce handicap parking violations and should, if it deems necessary, employ its own personnel for the specific purpose of parking enforcement as expressly provided in the California Vehicle Code.
The City Council is expected to review this issue at the Aug. 7 City Council meeting. DiCamillo said she will continue to look into the matter and prepare a report for the City Council.
Pat Brennen, president of High Sierra Patrol, which has a contract with the city to patrol the public parks and beaches is, upset about the Grand Jury Report.
“I am very concerned, appalled, disgusted and angry at the way that this handicap enforcement program has come under fire,” he said.
Brennen said his company enforces handicap parking because he was asked to by the city.
In June 1994 the City Council received and filed a document indicating High Sierra Patrol would enforce handicap parking. Brennen said he was unaware of the City Council’s action until he was later notified by letter.
Brennen said his organization pays for all the additional expenses and receives no financial compensation for patrolling handicap parking.
“We wanted to do something good for the people,” Brennen said. “How many organizations go out and do something good for the city for free?”
The Grand Jury found no fault with High Sierra, Womack said.
The Grand Jury also raised a concern over the actual citations, which it felt, would lead people who received violations to believe that an actual police officer had issued the citation. The city a few months ago changed the citation forms to avoid this confusion, said Police and Fire Chief Brad Bennett.
Other complaints surfaced over handicap spaces that may have not been properly marked according to state codes. Although the signs used to mark handicap parking spaces meet state codes, they can be moved for snow removal purposes. The Grand Jury reported some complaints pertaining to the lack of a sign.
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