A discussion on parking violations turned contentious at the Dewey Beach commissioners’ Aug. 9 meeting, when one commissioner called the mayor a liar.
Mayor TJ Redefer said parking has always been an issue in Dewey, and the town needs to improve signage and communication of parking rules.
The town uses Parkmobile for nonmetered spaces. Drivers use the cellphone app to input vehicle and payment information. Redefer said people who don’t include the letters PC along with their vehicle license number receive a ticket because they have not entered the correct license number. Tickets can be appealed to the town alderman.
“Recently, we’ve had several compelling emails expressing great disappointment with fines and court experience,” Redefer said. “As council, we should not be ruling on the work of the alderman court. We should give the court and staff autonomy to do their jobs.”
Commissioner David Moskowitz said one of those emails came from a local doctor who got a ticket.
“She was responded to with, ‘Get a life and please do not contact me again,’” Moskowitz said.
Town Counsel Fred Townsend interrupted, “Not by a town official. You’re suggesting the town responded to her.”
Moskowitz clarified the woman wrote to a town committee and a town volunteer responded to her. He said when he asked the town manager to apologize, the town manager told him to speak to the mayor, so he did.
“She was very upset,” Moskowitz said to Redefer. “You said she had a negative relationship with the volunteer. You lied! She wrote that email, that volunteer responded inappropriately, and the town should apologize.”
Pointing at Moskowitz, Redefer replied, “You have no idea what you’re talking about as far as that is concerned, and this is the last time you’re going to call me a liar in public. Do you understand that?”
Commissioner Dale Cooke said when he was interim town manager, the head of code enforcement was authorized to void tickets if the person who was ticketed could show they tried to pay for parking but failed to include the letters PC. Cooke said the town was not judging someone’s guilt, but whether the ticket was validly issued.
“I’d like to know who requested the change in policy, who authorized the change in policy and why?” Cooke asked. “It worked, and it worked well. I would venture it was a complaint by the department that felt encroachment.”
Town Manager Scott Koenig said last year, the judge recommended the town view the citations as valid because the consumer entered something incorrectly. Koenig said the judge has been deducting the amount paid to park from the fine.
“We just need to weather the storm because at some point, people will realize, ‘I’ve got to enter my plate correctly or I’m going to get a ticket,’” Koenig said. “People tend to make the mistake once.”
Cooke repeatedly questioned the policy change, to which Koenig said, “We can cut the chase short. Yes, I supported that, and authorized the change to policy.”
Commissioner Gary Persinger said a consumer-friendly policy that allows forgiveness for simple mistakes made by people who legitimately tried to pay for parking would make sense.
“I don’t think the commissioners are in a position to dictate policy to the town,” he said. “You are in fact recognizing the letter of the law, and you’re enforcing that, but I would express it’s not a good policy.”
Redefer said he doesn’t support a policy that would allow tickets to be waived.
“That is not an appropriate way for a municipality to deal with tickets,” he said. “You could be friendly and get the ticket waived or angry and not get it waived, or you could have a relationship with the code enforcement officer and get the ticket waived.”
Persinger disagreed. “There is no reason why the head of code enforcement can’t look at a situation and make an objective decision about whether or not to invalidate the ticket,” he said. “There has to be documentation to back it up; we are not talking about fixing tickets, we’re looking for a more friendly policy.”
When Moskowitz asked if the matter could be voted on at the next meeting, Redefer said he would see.
Cooke said Koenig’s changing of the policy was the wrong move.
“This is just common sense to me,” he said. “I just want it brought up front that it hurt people when you changed that policy. They were in the wrong, but we don’t need these 10 peoples’ $30, we just don’t. I assume commissioners will say the town manager has a right to set that policy. I think we also have a right to urge him to change that policy.”