“[It] got to the point that we just go in the back (of the restaurant) and get what you want,” a former Salt Lake City parking enforcement said.
Photo via Flickr user muyyum
Trading slices of pizza for free parking seems like a fair enough arrangement—the kind of thing that you’d work out with your stoner roommate halfway through your sophomore year. It would not, however, be a particularly appropriate deal to make with an employee of the government whose job is to enforce parking laws. But that pepperoni-topped tradeoff is what four Salt Lake City parking enforcement officers allegedly pulled off for two years—and it’s also allegedly why they’ve all been fired.
Jeff Clegg, a now-former parking enforcement officer, told KUTV that his team had reached an understanding with Amrol Hararah, the owner of Sicilia Pizza & Kitchen: If they saw a vehicle with a pizza menu on the dashboard, it belonged to the owner or to one of the employees and they wouldn’t write a ticket, presumably even if the meter had been expired since the late 20th century. (If a ticket was issued to Hararah or one of his employees, it would “often” be voided without penalty).
In exchange, Clegg said that the officers got free slices and could stay in the restaurant to get out of the cold weather. “[It] got to the point that we just go in the back (of the restaurant) and get what you want,” he said. “We would go behind the counter and get our own pizza.”
Clegg said that his former training supervisor made the deal with Hararah, and that he was worried that he would be “bullied” by other officers if he didn’t take that complimentary pizza.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the city was made aware of this arrangement in August and started its own investigation. (SPOILER ALERT: it discovered “an unusual pattern of both voided tickets and non-ticketing” for cars parked near Sicilia Pizza & Kitchen). The city contacted Clegg, who then confessed to the arrangement. He and three other officers were swiftly fired.
In October, Hararah went to City Hall to complain about two parking tickets he’d recently received for expired meters. (It’s worth noting that Clegg and his pizza-loving companions were on paid administrative leave at this time). Public Service Director Lisa Shaffer told the Tribune that Hararah insisted that he shouldn’t have received the tickets because he “had developed a relationship” with the officers.
Hararah has since changed his mind faster than you could melt a handful of shredded mozzarella. “There’s no deal with anybody," he told KSL. "No free slices. Three dollars. Everybody can afford $3 [...] I never have any deal with the city. I never have a deal with anybody. You think this is worth jeopardising somebody’s job?"
If Clegg is to be believed, it was worth it. (“It is really good pizza,” one KSL commenter wrote). He said that, during the two years in which the scheme was active, he and his team could have written three $25 tickets every day at the restaurant. That adds up to $19,000 in fines that the city didn’t collect.
That better be some damn good pizza.