October 31, 2014

Elyria
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Attorneys say Elyria parking enforcer is writing unnecessary tickets

ELYRIA — Two local attorneys plan to challenge parking tickets they received for allegedly violating a two-hour limit on parking downtown because they contend they were parked in their spots for less than two hours.

Lorain attorney Wayne Nicol said he dropped his daughter off in Avon around 9 a.m. April 10 and stopped for a cup of coffee on his way to the Lorain County Justice Center for a 10 a.m. hearing. He estimates he arrived in downtown Elyria between 9:30 and 9:45 a.m.

He said he returned to his car between 11:15 and 11:20 a.m. to find a ticket that said he’d violated the two-hour rule at 11:10 a.m. But he said there was no way his car had been parked in the spot for two hours.

Nicol said if he’d truly violated the time limit, he would be happy to pay the ticket as he’s done before. Of the 13 parking tickets Nicol has received since 2006, he’s paid the $15 fine on every one, according to Elyria Municipal Court records.

But since he didn’t break the law this time, Nicol said he intends to fight the ticket.

“It’s the principle of the thing,” he said.

Former Lorain County Domestic Relations Judge David Berta, now an attorney in private practice, said he knew he would be running up against the two-hour time limit because of a hearing April 10, so he moved his car from Middle Avenue to a spot on Third Street.

He said he came back about an hour later and found a ticket waiting for him.

Berta said he paid the $15 fine for a ticket he got earlier in the week because he had violated the two-hour limit.

Berta said he filed a complaint with Elyria police about the city’s new parking enforcement officer, Nathan Kwilecki, because he’s worried that if he and other attorneys are having the problem, then others probably are as well. Attorneys might be willing to fight the tickets because they’re downtown anyway, Berta said, but regular citizens won’t necessarily want to take the time to do so.

“If the lawyers are mad about this, imagine how many people are just paying them,” Berta said.

Berta has been videotaping his watch and noting the time he parks his car as a defense against future unfair citations.

Elyria Police Chief Duane Whitely said he reviewed Berta’s complaint and came to the conclusion that it’s an issue for the courts. He also said he has faith that Kwilecki, who started earlier this month, is adhering to the law.

“My personal impression is he’s a stickler for the rules,” Whitely said. “I don’t see him as a person who would shortcut the time limit.”

Whitely said there are no exceptions to the rules for attorneys or anyone else.

“People don’t like parking tickets, but we can’t pick and choose who we cite,” Whitely said. “The law is the law. It’s two hours and they have to move their car.”

There are other issues about parking enforcement in Elyria that have some lawyers upset as well, including instances where Kwilecki has cited people who have parked directly in front of the Justice Center where there are no signs setting a two-hour time limit.

“This little strip of land has no signage,” said attorney Thomas McGuire, whose ticket for parking in front of the Justice Center was dismissed Wednesday. “How is someone to know there’s limited parking?”

Elyria City Prosecutor Matt Mishak said the city’s ordinances do appear to bear out what McGuire and Michael Towne, another lawyer who successfully challenged a ticket for parking in front of the Justice Center, have said.

Towne and the other attorneys also take issue with how Kwilecki is marking their tires.

“He’s chalking the sides of the tires,” Towne said. “He’s supposed to chalk the bottom so the chalk comes off when you move the car.”

Elyria Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka said the only complaint she’s received about Kwilecki and parking enforcement had to do with a downtown resident who was upset that she kept getting tickets for parking on the street.

Siwierka said the city will review how Kwilecki is performing to make sure there are no problems and also check that parking signs are posted in the right areas.

Both Siwierka and Mayor Holly Brinda said crowded parking was the reason the city began enforcing parking laws again last year, three years after the city laid off the parking enforcement officer.

“We reinstated the parking attendant at the request of the downtown business owners,” Siwierka said.

But not every downtown business owner is happy with the renewed enforcement.

John Dixon, owner of Powerhouse Gym, said his customers have run afoul of the parking enforcement, particularly in some 30-minute spots while they’re attending classes. He said the tickets have upset his customers and hurt his business.

“The whole downtown is a parking trap,” he said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.