Police sorry for improper citations
Officer gave tow truck driver book of tickets in Gaithersburg neighborhood
Montgomery County Police are voiding parking tickets and apologizing to residents of the Fernshire Farms neighborhood in Gaithersburg after a four-year officer gave her book of parking tickets to a tow truck driver who issued them last month.
Residents who received tickets say the tow truck driver identified himself as an officer working on behalf of their homeowners association.
After a private meeting of the HOA, residents who attended said police told them the tow-truck driver has been fired and the police officer has tendered her resignation.
A "limited number" of tickets were issued to vehicles in Fernshire Farms, a 342-townhome community near Quince Orchard Road and Great Seneca Highway, said Lt. Paul Starks, director of the department's media division.
After an internal investigation, the officer and tow truck driver are not expected to face criminal charges, he said. On Tuesday, police spokesman Cpl. Stephen Galloza confirmed that the officer was Jennifer Phoenix, a four-year county officer at the 6th District station in Gaithersburg. She could not be reached.
"This is a community where there are some legitimate parking issues," Starks said. "This officer made some poor decisions. While we do encourage officers to work with the community, there was poor decision-making on the part of this officer … Whatever, if any, personnel action that would be taking place has taken place."
An officer from the 6th District station apologized to residents at the Fernshire Farms HOA meeting Monday and confirmed that the man who issued the tickets has been fired from the towing company, said Larry Seeger, president of the Fernshire Farms Homeowners Association.
After The Gazette expressed interest in attending Monday's meeting, the HOA board closed the meeting to non-homeowners on "advice from counsel and property management," Seeger said.
Several residents leaving the meeting said that police told them that the officer had submitted her resignation, effective July 5. Galloza declined to discuss personnel matters Tuesday.
Phoenix is one of four county officers named in a $6.4 million civil lawsuit filed in federal court by a Montgomery Village woman, who alleges that the officers beat, kicked and stunned her with Tasers in her living room in 2006 after she had been handcuffed.
That lawsuit is in discovery stages in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
Two of the $50 parking tickets were issued to the Kawczynski family, residents of Beacon Hill Terrace for nearly 20 years.
Mark Kawczynski got his ticket May 8. Four days later, his son Nick Kawczynski — who had parked over the curb while he loaded his Buick LeSabre for the drive back to the University of South Carolina — was cited shortly after 8 a.m. May 12.
In both cases, Mark and Nancy Kawczynski said, the man identified himself as a Montgomery County police officer.
Both times the man said he was "acting on behalf of the HOA," they said. And both tickets that he issued are signed with the surname "Phoenix."
County parking tickets say that the signature is made "under penalty of perjury." Starks said that the internal investigation "did not rise to that" level.
The investigation also focused on the person who issued the tickets, whom residents said police later determined was a driver for G&G Towing of Rockville.
"That matter was looked into by our Internal Affairs. They're not moving forward at this point with criminal charges," Galloza said.
Glen Caid, G&G's owner, did not return calls from The Gazette.
Fernshire Farm's property manager, Sandra Ewing of Vanguard Management Associates Inc. of Germantown, had no comment.
The Kawczynskis and other Fernshire residents interviewed Monday night said the ticketing is a case of suburban cul-de-sac parking woes gone haywire.
They traced it back to the HOA's decision four years ago to only allow guests to park in 21 spaces on Beacon Hill Terrace, one of dozens of cul-de-sacs near Quince Orchard High School.
"Who knows what the motive was. How ridiculous," Nancy Kawczynski said.