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Parking Meter Controversy Continues

January 14, 2010

EUGENE, Ore. —  We’re learning more about a Eugene man, Ben Bond, who was fined $810 after a confrontation with a meter maid.  The trouble started Wednesday when Bond tried paying the expired parking meters of strangers.

Outside the Fifth Street Market is where Ben Bond was arrested.  He admits he fed the expired meters of strangers and used profanity at one point when he stopped his truck and confronted a Eugene parking enforcement officer.  He says he never physically got in her way and was just trying to make sure other people avoided getting hit with parking tickets.

“They asked me what I was doing and I said ‘Trying to keep the meter maid from getting a cramp in her hand from writing tickets’. And they instantly said ‘Put your change in your pocket. You are under arrest,’ ” said Bond.

Ben Bond never believed putting a few coins in a few parking meters could lead to this. “The handcuff marks are still on my hands,” said Bond.

The 30-year old was arrested by Eugene Police Wednesday and charged with Harassment and Obstruction of Governmental Administration after a run in with one of the city’s parking enforcement officers. What sparked the incident was what Bond considered an act of kindness: putting coins in the expired parking meters of strangers.

“Got into my truck, and she pulled right here right as I was getting ready to put the money in and she said she saw that it was expired and that she’s still getting a ticket,” said Bond.

The parking services employee advised him to stop, then she moved on down Fifth Street.

“Had a pocket full of change and decided nobody else needs to get a ticket on this street and decided to change everybody up,” said Bond.

Bond admits to stopping his truck next to the parking attendant outside the Fifth Street Market and confronting her. “I told her ‘I don’t think you’re a crappy person, but what you’re doing is a crappy ordeal,” said Bond.

Bond parked, paid his own meter, then continued to pay others. “When I pulled up across the block, she instantly just stopped doing her job and I figured she was calling the police and I stuck around and waited for them,” said Bond.

Three officers arrived, and within moments Bond was in cuffs and in a police cruiser.  “I didn’t have a chance from the get go. As soon as they showed up, I think minds were made up that I was going to be arrested and fined,” said Bond.

Meanwhile, KEZI 9 News spoke with another witness to this incident.  He didn’t want to go on camera, but what he says corroborates much of Bond’s recollection of events that the only time Bond confronted the parking officer was from inside his truck and he did not block her from doing her job. He says Bond disappeared for a short time as police were called to the scene.  Bond says he intends to fight his charges in court.

When our photographer arrived at the scene Wednesday night, the responding police officers left before we could contact them.  We made four separate calls to the Eugene Police Department. None were returned before our story first aired.

The Eugene Police Department spoke with KEZI 9 News Thursday morning.  They were eager to talk with us and tell their side of the story.  We sat down with EPD’s Patrol Captain Rich Stronach.

It should be noted though, Captain Stronach was not on the scene, had not seen a copy of the report, and said he only had a brief talk with one of the responding police officers.

“This guy was running ahead and putting coins in the meters as the parking control officer would stop to begin writing citations,” said Eugene Police Capt. Rich Stronach.

Captain Rich Stronach says that’s not what led to 30-year-old Ben Bond’s arrest, but he claims Bond’s verbal assaults and following a parking enforcement officer is what landed him in the back of a patrol car.

“She did finally start to feel physically intimidated. I can’t tell you what was said, I haven’t seen the report like I said, I don’t know what exactly he said,” said Capt. Stronach. “Eventually got to the point where she felt threatened enough where she contacted police.”

KEZI 9 News asked further about that physical intimidation.

“What the officer described to me was over the course of several blocks, of this parking control officer trying to do her job, that he continually followed along was interfering with her. I’m going to assume her way was blocked, exactly what went on I can’t tell you. Like I said I wasn’t there, I haven’t even read the report. I spoke with the officer briefly this morning about it,” said Capt. Stronach.

But after our cameras were off, Stronach called the officer and told KEZI 9 News that Bond did not physically block the parking enforcement officer from doing her job. Stronach says when officers arrived on the scene Bond wasn’t around. It was later while three EPD officers were talking to the parking control officer that Bond walked by.  According to Capt. Stronach, after talking with him, police put him in handcuffs and into the patrol car. “The officers elected to put him in handcuffs, and it was very non eventful. Contrary to one account where he was thrown up against the wall, that did not occur,” said Stronach.

However, five witnesses who spoke with KEZI 9 News say otherwise. They say he was handled harshly.  “The only thing I can suggest to the people that reported to your cameraman that they’re perception is that they were seeing what was going on at this one particular point. Again, parking control officers deal with this stuff all the time just not to this extent,” said Capt. Stronach.

Police cited Bond for Harassment and Obstructing Governmental Administration. With Bond’s citations, he had two options: spend the night in jail or receive a citation for $810, stop his behavior, and leave the area. He opted for the fine and left.

The harassment charge comes with a $280 fine. Obstructing Governmental Administration packs a $530 fine. The harassment charge is for those verbal assaults, but what is the obstruction of governmental administration for if it wasn’t for plugging parking meters?

The definition according to Oregon law states, “If the person intentionally obstructs, impairs or hinders the administration of law or other governmental or judicial function by means of intimidation, force, physical or economic interference or obstacle.”

So how was Bond hindering the parking enforcement officer from doing her job? Police say he did not block her, those verbal assaults were for the harassment charge. He was filling those meters though, but police say he wasn’t charged for that.  Bond is set to appear in court on January 28th, and he plans to fight it.

KEZI 9 News also spoke to Mayor Kitty Piercy about the incident. She maintains this is not a case about plugging a meter but rather someone harassing a city employee.

While EPD maintains that Bond was not actually fined for plugging meters, there is an ordinance on the books that says it’s illegal to feed other people’s meters.

The city though says that law’s not enforced.  In turn, Mayor Piercy says she stands by the actions of everyone involved on the city’s side of things.

“The message from me to the people of this community is if they think we would ever send an officer out over a meter plugging incident, we wouldn’t. And secondly, we do support and admire people who try to be Good Samaritans and help their fellow citizens,” said Piercy.

Mayor Piercy says, while Ben Bond may have been trying to be a Good Samaritan, that’s not what this case is about.

“It’s really about what happened after that where an employee doing her job was harassed and intimidated and felt so frightened for her well being she had to call the police to help her out. That’s the issue that’s at hand,” says Piercy.

City Councilor Mike Clark agrees.  “At the end of the day, I think it’s a good idea to try and do the Good Samaritan type of thing that he was doing, but it’s a bad idea to harass and follow people down the street when you’re mad about it,” said Clark. “You don’t get to yell and you don’t get to threaten city employees, even if they behave dumb or mean.”

What both Clark and the mayor are assuming of course is that Bond’s story isn’t true. As it stands, the city has yet to offer up an interview with any of the officers who were on the scene or the woman who Bond had the confrontation with. That’s all stacked against the eyewitness accounts who say Bond was not physically threatening or impeding the officer.

Meanwhile, Clark says situations like this could be avoided if the city would just get rid of meters in the first place. “People are sick to death of getting tickets at parking meters, and that’s why I’ve been trying to get rid of them for a year. I think that’s what really creates the rub her,” said Clark.

When KEZI 9 News spoke to parking services Wednesday morning, they initially agreed to speak to us, though they stipulated they would only talk about parking operations and not about the incident itself. They told KEZI 9 News they first needed to check in with the police department.  From that point on though, they did not get back to us and did not return any of our calls.

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