Of the three Anna Maria Island cities, the city of Anna Maria may have the biggest public parking challenges, which often results in a lot of parking tickets.
About 25 people who received parking tickets 18 months to two years ago probably shouldn’t have.
Former code enforcement administrative assistant Angela Albrecht was fired on Jan. 24. She told the Anna Maria Islander that a city employee who was not certified to issue parking tickets by the state had indeed issued tickets anyway.
Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy confirmed this week that a mistake had been made, but he otherwise dismissed a lot of what Albrecht had to say.
“These allegations are from a disgruntled ex-employee,” Murphy said. “There’s not much substance and there is always two sides to every story. However, unbeknownst to me or anyone else, a former manager of code enforcement who no longer works here put someone out there and he issued about 25 tickets about two years ago.”
According to Florida statutes, “A chartered municipality ... may employ as a parking enforcement specialist any individual who successfully completes a training program established and approved by the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission for parking enforcement specialists.”
Murphy, as well as city attorney Becky Vose, believe there is some leeway in that law when it comes to the Municipal Home Rules Power Act.
“I asked our attorney about recalling those tickets and she asked me if they were valid,” Murphy said. “I said, ‘Yeah, absolutely they were valid,’ and she said, ‘OK then.’ Nobody’s challenged the tickets and right now I’m not considering recalling those tickets, but I’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Murphy said his understanding is that the city’s charter supersedes the statute, and indeed the Municipal Home Rules Power Act has some conflicting language up for interpretation. Largely, as interpreted by the Florida Bar Journal, it says cities cannot ignore state laws.
However, it also states, “Both the Florida Constitution and the state statutes express a preference that, absent some necessity for a statewide enactment, local officials should deal with their problems relating to the health and welfare of their citizens.”
A city’s charter is essentially its own constitution that outlines how that city will conduct itself in governing and creating laws. Anna Maria’s charter is fairly basic and doesn’t address how parking tickets can or cannot be issued.
“But I’m not going to hide behind that,” Murphy said. “I’m not going to play that card. We screwed up. A former employee allowed that to happen. It was a long time ago and has since been rectified, because our policy has always been that our employees be certified and right now they all are certified. That one particular employee who issued the tickets hasn’t done so in a long time, but he is also in the process of becoming certified.”
The requirements to get certified by the state include a 16-hour course, offered by some colleges or online companies. Most point out that the certification is a requirement under the law. However, course descriptions on St. Petersburg College Workforce Institute’s website contains key language that “most” government agencies, but not all, require certified employees.
“The Parking Enforcement Specialist training is a requirement of most government agencies, therefore, having this certificate should increase a parking enforcement’s candidate’s changes of finding employment within a government agency,” the website states.