COEUR d'ALENE - Ouch.
It's been quite a week in what's been quite a month for Councilman Steve Adams, who drew his fair share of attention recently for advocating the city go to an election to decide the fate of the wastewater treatment plant and the multi-million dollar upgrades it requires.
The pursuit of an election made the second-year councilman unpopular with the rest of the council, which preferred judicial confirmation to secure the funds.
Tense meetings on the topic lasted all March, which included arguing, finger pointing, a 911 call, alleged threats, shaking fists and swear words.
Add a parking ticket.
Not just left on a windshield, but posted online, to boot.
"I didn't expect that one," Adams said Thursday of the parking ticket he received March 28 while attending a City Council workshop involving the sewer issue at the public library - a ticket he appealed, lost, and was posted online on a blog that has been critical of Adams every step of the wastewater way. "I was surprised."
Adams' parking ticket appeal was posted on The Spokesman Review's Huckleberries online.
On the appeal, Adams explained he was attending a city meeting that lasted a half-hour longer than the library's two-hour parking limit, but he should be excused as an elected official. The online post sarcastically asked readers if they should take a collection to help Adams pay the $15 fine.
"I'll pay it," Adams said Thursday. "Oh well."
It's not the first time under-the-radar correspondence from the second-year councilman has made it online, including an email Adams sent to the city attorney. Adams has disagreed with the majority of the council on more than the wastewater issue. He said he doesn't pay attention to the blog, but however the information gets out there, it's probably meant to make him look bad.
"What else would be the motivation?" he said.
But Adams appealed the ticket because as a parking commission liaison, he thought tickets would be forgiven if city meetings, which happen frequently at the library, ran longer than the two-hour limit.
The two-hour limit at the library at Front Street and Mullan Avenue was enacted last year.
But the rule actually says the parking commission "may exempt for special events," said Randy Teall, commission member. That's more along the lines of one-time meetings that draw a hundred people or so, not relatively "run of the mill" meetings like a council workshop, he said.
While the library parking lot has a two-hour limit, the adjacent parking lot south of City Hall doesn't. Adams' appeal was denied, as were the other two appeals submitted last week from the same meeting.
"What I want to emphasize is there was nothing political about this," said Teall, adding he recognized the strange timing of the "simple" incident like a parking ticket making it online because Adams had made so many headlines recently. "We had to treat it just as we would anybody else, regardless that he was a councilman."
Teall said he wasn't sure how the info got online.
A records request was made for the appeal, the first records request for a parking appeal Teall has seen in his one year on the commission. City liaison Judy House and newly elected commission member Steve Widmyer were the other two people who would have seen the appeal come in, Teall said. Both House, who said she has never seen a public records request for an appeal either, and Widmyer, appointed March 5, said they didn't alert anyone to it.
But it was posted, which Teall said he found "disturbing."
"It makes everybody look bad," he said. "Nobody is winning on this."
Had the commission forgiven the ticket, it would open them up to criticism of playing favorites for officials, he said, just as some people might suspect Adams got the ticket in the first place - or that the appeal was leaked - because of his contrarian stance.
On Thursday, Adams voted with the rest of council during another workshop at City Hall to officially forgo the election and pay for the $33.5 million plant upgrades through judicial confirmation. The council also accepted Adams' written stipulation that he waives all claims to an appeal, a threat that had hung over the council as it wavered between judicial confirmation and an election. It all but marked the end of the wastewater ordeal.
Adams laughed off the ticket Thursday, saying he didn't see it as insult atop an otherwise tense month. He said his comments about officials being exempt was a joke, but that he thought meetings that ran long would be forgiven.
"Otherwise I wouldn't have appealed," he said. "Then it comes back denied, and I'm like, 'where's the love?'"