BARUTI ARTHAREE, Mayor Charlie Hales' public safety director, has been doing his work from a delicate place over the past few weeks—as the subject of an internal city investigation following reports that he uttered suggestive comments when introducing Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith at an equity event this month.
That's a big problem—one that could affect his status in Hales' office. But Artharee, it turns out, has some smaller ones. As in 112, to be exact.
According to Multnomah County parking court records, that's how many parking citations Artharee has racked up since April 1997. That's an average of seven a year, with the most recent slapped on his vehicle June 11.
And—maybe actually troubling—court records show Artharee hasn't fully paid off nine of those tickets. Including fees and penalties, plus original citation costs, Artharee still owes Multnomah County $859 for tickets stretching back to 1998.
More than half that sum comes from four tickets racked up in four days last year. He was busted November 5, 2012, for keeping his Mercedes-Benz at an expired meter—a discovery that also earned him a citation for failing to display current tags. He still hadn't affixed current tags to his car by November 9 when he was found illegally parked in a bus zone on SW Broadway.
The Mercury called Hales' office for comment—offering the caveat that while parking tickets are hardly the most egregious offense, it was clear the sheer total was eye-popping. Not to mention the number of unpaid tickets—by itself higher than some people rack up in a lifetime—and the amount still owed.
"I did catch up with Baruti," Hales' spokesman, Dana Haynes, said on Monday, June 24. "He's declined to comment."
But Artharee, it turns out, has some company in Hales' office when it comes to life as a serial parking scofflaw. Hales' chief of staff, Gail Shibley, has amassed 94 tickets in a similar period, court records show. (Although all of hers are paid, including one cleared up just this month.)
You'll recall it was surprising, if hardly earth-shaking, when Willamette Week reported in 2011 on the 87 tickets then-mayoral candidate Eileen Brady had gathered in Multnomah County.
Artharee's total is well over Brady's. And Shibley's total stands out because it's more than twice the next highest offender in Hales' office, policy advisor Josh Alpert, with just 45. Hales himself had 17. Some goody two-shoes in the office have less than a handful: Haynes (3) and policy advisors Noah Siegel (4) and Ed McNamara (3).
"Great, I'm down with the nerdy kids," Haynes joked.
Focused on the worst offenders—Artharee and Shibley—the Mercury spent more time than was probably wise digging deep into their records.
Both Artharee and Shibley have a penchant for one parking crime in particular: They routinely park in a metered space or in some other space with a time limit—only to stay past their allotted time.
It's the kind of offense easily ascribed to busy people hustling downtown and other places for meetings—or people with means enough to afford the hundreds of dollars in fines you'd have to pay, even without the collection fees and penalties handed down to Artharee.
But overstaying a meter or timed space utterly defeats the purpose of a parking plan meant to cycle in shoppers and visitors while ensuring, because of turnover, that anyone who needs a space can mostly find one.
Artharee was cited 76 times just for failing to start his vehicle and move it somewhere else when his time in a spot was up. Shibley actually tops him in this subcategory, with 82 citations.
Artharee comes out ahead overall on the depth and breadth of his citations in several other categories: 13 citations over the years for failing to display current tags, six citations for parking in a loading zone, and five for parking in a neighborhood where a permit was required.
In the 12 months that ended May 31, Portland's cut of parking violation cash, paid in a monthly check from the Multnomah County court system, hit $6.6 million. That sum is expected to go up, thanks to a vote this winter to raise some fees.
Dylan Rivera, a spokesman for the Portland Bureau of Transportation, says the city uses the money almost exclusively to pay for parking enforcement. Leftover funding could pay for actual projects, he says, but "generally we barely break even."
Meaning the fines aren't meant as a cash cow.
"The intent," Rivera says, "is to achieve compliance."
Most of the time.
The Mercury's Dirk VanderHart
contributed to this report.