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Home / Featured / City parking supervision hits pavement at highest court

City parking supervision hits pavement at highest court

Parking meters againt a shallow depth of cars parked at the background image

The Missouri Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutional validity of state parking statutes on March 30.

City of St. Louis 22nd Ward Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, who chaired the aldermanic streets, traffic and refuse committee, joined a lawsuit of two individuals who received parking tickets from the city treasurer’s office and sued the city, the state, the city treasurer and other officials. Together, they questioned the constitutional validity of the state parking statutes, the city’s schedule of parking fines and penalties, and the city’s compliance with its professional services contract ordinance. 

One state parking statute charges a city treasurer outside a county with supervising and installing parking meters, as well as collecting fees and supervising a parking division. The other establishes a parking commission for those same entities that oversees public parking, such as approving guidelines for city parking violations and collecting fines, and designates the city treasurer as parking supervisor.

The lawsuit claims that these statutes place parking responsibilities to join the commission on three municipal officers, including Boyd, and that this direction should not come from the state.

The city filed a cross claim against the other defendants that also challenged the constitutional validity of the state parking statutes. The city and the St. Louis plaintiffs each moved for summary judgment, and the circuit court moved in their favor.

Before the Missouri Supreme Court, the city treasurer and the state appealed the summary judgment.

Chuck Hatfield of Stinson represented City of St. Louis treasurer Adam Layne before the court. He said that the plaintiffs don’t have standing because they don’t have an injury as a result of a parking commission.

Judge Mary R. Russell asked Hatfield if the city itself has standing. He said it would, except for the fact that the city’s brief claims it doesn’t need an injury to go forth with the lawsuit.

“The court’s not in the business of just giving advice,” Hatfield said.

Deputy Solicitor Jeff Johnson represented the state as an appellant. He said that even if the three city members are stricken from the commission, the commission still stands.

“So the state sees no reason why the full commission cannot continue,” Johnson said.

Michael Garvin from the City of St. Louis Counselor’s Office represented the City of St. Louis in oral arguments. He disagreed, stating that the treasurer and a treasurer employee would be the remaining commission members.

“Oversight, by its nature, requires an independent or third party oversight, not me overseeing myself,” Garvin said. 

Garvin stated that a ruling in the state’s favor would “gut” the effectiveness of the article of the Missouri Constitution that bans laws that create or fix a municipal office’s powers, duties or compensation.

Elkin Kistner of Kistner, Hamilton, Elam & Martin represents the St. Louis individuals. He said that the General Assembly’s authorization of special charter counties, which act as counties with municipal functions, shows that regular counties don’t have the same powers.

“We think it actually condemns their position, because it’s saying only charter counties have the authority to regulate parking,” Kistner said. “And in doing so, it’s implicitly saying that regular counties lack that authority.”

Judge W. Brent Powell noted that the legislature created commissions other than the parking commission.

 “One that comes to mind for me, being from Kansas City, is the police commission board that the mayor serves on,” Powell said. “So isn’t our ruling here today bigger than what’s going on in St. Louis?”

Garvin said he wasn’t familiar with how the statutes would affect Kansas City, but that there was no question that the City of St. Louis employees are serving on a state-created board.

The case is Wilson et al. v. City of St. Louis et al., and Layne, City of St. Louis v. State of Missouri, SC98907.