October 16, 2013

Parking Officer Hughes Demoted But Not Fired

The second parking enforcement officer suspended last month for not ticketing vehicles displaying logos of some downtown stores on their dashboards was given a four-week suspension without pay, and reassigned to one of the municipal parking garages as an attendant.

The fate of Jon Hughes was decided following an internal investigation into parking enforcement activities. The investigation was launched after it was revealed by the news website Planet Princeton last month that vehicles with certain menus, shopping bags, and other items on their dashboards were being allowed to park at metered spaces for up to 10 hours at a time without being ticketed. Parking officer Chris Boutote was fired as a result of the investigation.

Mr. Hughes was reassigned after it was found he had improperly dismissed a parking ticket. At a meeting of Princeton Council Monday night, municipal administrator Bob Bruschi explained why Mr. Hughes was suspended but not terminated. “We were not able to uncover anything on him other than he didn’t follow normal procedure on a summons,” he said.

Mr. Boutote was a former Borough police officer earning $48,109 a year with a $4,400 pension. Mr. Hughes earns $44,000 a year. The municipality will not pursue criminal charges, but the case has been turned over to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, Mr. Bruschi said.

“We will be meeting with Princeton officials and law enforcement representatives next week to discuss its investigation into the parking issue and why that investigation has not resulted in criminal charges being filed,” said Casey A. DeBlasio, public information officer for the Prosecutor’s Office, in an e-mail yesterday.

Earlier on Monday, Mr. Bruschi said there had been rumors in recent years about officers getting free food and drink in exchange for favors. He declined to name the businesses involved in the scheme, but said he thought it was staff, rather than owners of the businesses, who were involved. “I’m disappointed in the way they took advantage of the system,” he said. “We followed up on all the calls we got but nobody would talk.”

At the Council meeting, he said the municipality and the police department are trying to come up with a system to make such behavior more difficult to carry out. “We won’t look at hiring anyone [to replace Mr. Boutote and Mr. Hughes] until I’m satisfied we have a new system,” he said. “Hopefully, it won’t happen again. But one never knows.”