Alders on the Madison Common Council get a few perks, one of which is a parking pass for a small lot behind the Madison Municipal Building on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
According to the rules (PDF): "Permits will be issued to persons on official business or attending evening meetings in the Municipal Building. The parking permits are NOT to be used while employees are attending training sessions in the building, daytime meetings that last longer than 30 minutes, or court appearances."
Because there are only 13 spaces (PDF), the time limit is two hours between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the week. There is no time limit at night or during the weekends.
Some alders use this perk more than others, says Meg Zopelis, who works in the city's building inspection division, which monitors the lot. One frequent parker is Ald. Bridget Maniaci, who represents part of downtown. On Sept. 1, Zopelis noticed Maniaci's car in the lot when she took her lunch at a picnic bench outside. When Zopelis saw that her car was "still there the next morning and had not moved," she wrote the alder a $30 ticket. Maniaci had received another ticket in May.
Maniaci plans to fight this ticket. "This is sort of silly. We're able to park from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m.," she says. "My ticket was written at, like, 6:50 a.m. It's the principle of the matter."
Two sources say off the record that Maniaci often parks in the lot and then goes to her day job, near the Capitol Square. Maniaci says, "I use it on a regular basis, and I'm running from lots of things, from meetings and work and everything else. It's frequent that I'm downtown."
Moreover, she says the permit doesn't stipulate the circumstances under which the lot can be used.
Zopelis says she has no idea where Maniaci or any other alder goes when they park in the space. "In theory it's for city business," she says. "A lot of the alders park here."
In challenging the fine, Maniaci could end up costing the city money. If the matter goes to trial in Madison Municipal Court, Judge Daniel Koval will have to recuse himself. A judge brought in from another court can request an hourly fee.