BRIDGEPORT — The city’s new downtown parking meters of the future met their match Thursday — old fashioned lawyerin’.
Retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez and attorney Edward Krasnow, aided by son and fellow lawyer Marc Krasnow, successfully appealed $40 tickets issued in the mail by the automated meters installed this winter.
Lopez was fined while waiting for her father to receive a haircut.
When the legal professional-turned-community activist marched into the City Hall hearing room, the only thing missing were her black robes.
She was more than prepared, and even brought a handful of witnesses — her father, his barber, and some other downtown business owners unhappy with the meters.
Lopez successfully argued there was no signage warning her or other drivers of the aggressive new parking system, which, using cameras, automatically issues a violation within five minutes of a car pulling up to the curb if not fed.
The Krasnows got about a dozen tickets issued to Edward Krasnow outside of the firm’s offices tossed.
Edward Krasnow is disabled. State law is unclear about whether disabled drivers are required to feed parking meters. And, as previously reported, the city’s own policy has been inconsistent, with human meter readers typically giving the disabled a pass. The new downtown camera-equipped “robocops” are not programmed for discretion.
But beyond their personal victories, Thursday’s appeal hearings for Lopez and Krasnow shed further light on the equipment’s flawed roll out under Mayor Joe Ganim and whether average residents lacking legal backgrounds are at a disadvantage when trying to fight the system.
“I think it is an illusion of due process,” said Lopez in an interview.
From the start the assertive Lopez ran the hearing like a courtroom. She questioned the qualifications of Peter Kehoe, the retired cop who for years has overseen parking violations, and of Michael Moretti, the elected sheriff who volunteers to judge the hearings.
At one point Moretti recessed to phone the City Attorney because Lopez claimed there was no evidence he had ever been authorized by the City Council to adjudicate parking disputes. Moretti was told he had, and that the documents were with the City Clerk.
“You cannot prove your are legitimately a hearing officer,” Lopez said.
Lopez also wondered why the individual who reviewed her violation before it was mailed out — it was not clear if this was a police officer or an employee with either LAZ Parking or one of the two other private companies involved in the city’s parking system — was not present to testify.
“Is she here?” Lopez asked.
“No, she’s not,” admitted Kehoe.
The former judge also questioned the reliability of the photos the meter took of her vehicle for not paying.