A $100 Ticket Sparks Tensions At Citizens Square

Feb 12, 2018

Credit Zach Bernard/WBOI News

Fort Wayne City Clerk Lana Keesling is accusing Mayor Tom Henry of retaliation and abuse of power amid fallout over a $100 ticket issued to the mayor for expired license plates.

Henry purchased a 2018 Buick LaCrosse in November. Its temporary plates expired on December 24, but according to Keesling, that LaCrosse was ticketed in the Citizens Square parking lot in January with its expired, paper plates.

The story of the ticketed vehicle was published by the News-Sentinel on Monday, February 5, which led to email correspondence between Keesling and Henry.

In the emails, which Keesling provided to the press, Henry referred to the Sentinel’s story as “juvenile” and “uninvestigated” on February 6. He stated the car belongs to the City of Fort Wayne, not him, and suggested Keesling contact the city attorney to resolve “the payment issue.”

Keesling did not alter her position on the initial ticket. She believes this is why, in an email on Wednesday, February 7, Henry reassigned parking spaces at Citizens Square for city employees -- excluding her. This required Keesling to move to her free spot in the Town Center garage across from Citizens Square, which she says was given to her deputy, Stacy Reed.

She says this motivated her to have a meeting with Henry Thursday to clear the air, but according to her the conversation became “dark.”

“He stated he holds all the control and the power, and it’s his building, and he can do whatever he wants,” said Keesling. “During that conversation, I asked if this was retaliation for the parking issue, and several times during that conversation, he said, ‘yes.’”

On Friday, Keesling was told she would need to get her Town Center space back from Reed, according to emails exchanged with City Comptroller Len Poehler. If Keesling reclaimed the spot, Reed would have to pay a bi-weekly fee to park in the garage.

Keesling rejected this, leaving her without a designated parking space Monday.

She says the events of the last week indicate to her Henry is abusing his power as mayor, saying he’s “not an honorable man.”

“He is now using his power to harass, threaten, retaliate and create a hostile environment. To retaliate against me by taking away my parking spot is petty, partisan, sexist and an abuse of power,” she said. “This retribution against an elected official is wrong.”

She continued by stating the retribution against a female is “very wrong,” and questioned whether her gender played a role in last week's decision.

“Would he be retaliating against me or threatening me if I were male?” she asked. “Is he retaliating and threatening because he believes he can get away with it because I’m female?”

The Mayor’s Office responded with a statement at 2:43 pm. It states that Mayor Henry is “disappointed” by the recent ticket, suggesting an understanding of the situation between the Mayor and City Clerk’s office before the ticket was issued. It added, “a change in parking arrangements is a disagreement between Mayor Henry and Clerk Keesling.

You can read the full statement below:

“Mayor Henry and City Clerk Keesling have had a positive working relationship since she became clerk. This most recent situation involving a parking ticket to a government vehicle and a change in parking arrangements is a disagreement between Mayor Henry and Clerk Keesling. We do not see this as an abuse of power situation. Both are committed public servants.

Mayor Henry was disappointed by a recent ticket that was issued to a City of Fort Wayne vehicle that’s been assigned to him. The City took possession of the vehicle in Nov. 2017 with a temporary license plate. The plate had an expiration date of 12-24-17. The City did not receive the permanent license plate until after the temporary plate had expired. The City Clerk’s office was aware of the situation and that the permanent plate would be arriving soon, which it did last week, the same day a ticket was issued.

There is a designated/reserved parking spot for the clerk in the parking garage attached to Citizens Square.”