2011-05-31 Officials overreacted to ticket dispute, man says
Officials overreacted to ticket dispute, man says
Police called after man refused to leave City Hall
A Saskatoon man says city officials were “overzealous” in calling police and forcing him to leave City Hall after a dispute over an unpaid parking ticket.
James Kernaghan, a 48-year-old downtown business owner, says he was told he had to leave City Hall on Friday by police after he refused to budge from a chair in the reception area.
Kernaghan says he received a summons to court over an unpaid parking ticket last week. He gets around 15 to 20 parking tickets a year, he said, but didn’t receive this ticket on his windshield or get a letter indicating payment wasn’t received, he said.
He wanted the ticket reduced to $10, the minimum payment, but was told by the customer service clerk he must fight the ticket in court.
Kernaghan, who runs a sales training and recruitment firm, asked to speak to the clerk’s supervisor, he said, who reiterated the policy.
“How do I fight a ticket I never got?” Kernaghan said he told the supervisor. “They told me, ‘You have no choice you have to take it to court,’ and I said, ‘That’s ridiculous. I’d like to speak to your boss.’ ”
Kernaghan consciously didn’t raise his voice to intimidate anyone, he said. He asked for identification from the last manager he spoke to because he wanted to file a complaint. He eventually requested to speak to the city manager, claiming it was his right, but was refused, he said.
In protest, he sat in a chair at a kiosk, which was closed after he sat down, while waiting to speak to a manager.
After 10 minutes, five security staff arrived and one guard approached Kernaghan and asked him to leave.
“I looked at him and said, ‘Sir, I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m sitting quietly in a chair asking to speak to someone further up the line.’ ”
Five minutes later, two police officers arrived and requested Kernaghan leave the building, he said.
“I told them, ‘I’m not leaving. I’m not swearing, I’m not causing a scene.’ They said, ‘You’re disrupting work.’ I said, ‘Unless you’re telling me you’re going to arrest me – I’m not leaving. I’m sitting in a public space.’ ”
After another senior officer arrived, Kernaghan was asked to leave the premises or be charged with mischief, he said.
At that point, he had no choice but to leave, he said.
“I’m not going to fight a mischief charge,” Kernaghan said.
City treasurer Shelley Sutherland wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the incident. She said the city’s general manager of corporate service, Maryls Bilanski, has been asked to look into the matter.
Once a summons has been issued for an unpaid parking ticket it’s a matter for the courts, Sutherland said.
This is the first time in at least 30 years police have been called to City Hall to deal with a customer service dispute, she said.
“Things are sometimes difficult,” she said. “But, generally speaking, we’re able to deal with people’s issues or at least give them answers they can live with. Our intention is that people are satisfied – not always happy, but satisfied.”
Kernaghan says the situation could have been dealt with differently. The manager could have directed him to make an appointment with the city manager or city solicitor to have his complaints heard or waited him out.
“You’ve got to assume at some point in time I’ll get bored, but within five minutes (of silent protest) I’m dealing with security guards and police,” he said.
“Police and security were doing nothing wrong. To bring in security and the police is an overreaction. It was over the top. (The manager) attempted to accelerate the situation into an incident. He’s upset that I said no to him and said I wouldn’t leave.”
Kernaghan said he would also like an envelope placed on parking tickets to ensure they remain on the windshield.