A dispute between Fort Wayne's mayor and city clerk took another turn today after Clerk Lana Keesling released an audio recording that she says proves the mayor retaliated against her over a parking ticket he received on his city-owned car.
"The mayor's response to the parking ticket was that this was a 'disagreement' about a parking space. There is a far bigger picture here that an elected official was bullied and retaliated against for doing the job she was elected to do," Keesling said in a statement. "The mayor stated Citizens Square is his building and he can do whatever he wants."
The recording Keesling released Wednesday morning was taken during a Feb. 8 meeting between Keesling and Mayor Tom Henry. In it, Keesling tells Henry her hands were tied regarding the ticket. In the recording, Henry can be heard disagreeing with that assertion. He described the idea that the city would have to pay itself for a parking ticket was "absolutely ludicrous."
"We were told, as far as the city vehicle, not to worry about it by the BMV," Henry said. "They said your license plate has been paid by the city. Don't worry about it."
In the recording, Henry also said he would not have paid the ticket anyway, because he doesn't own the car. Henry also said it's his call as to who receives a designated parking space within Citizens Square.
Henry was cited on Feb. 6 because his new city-owned car, a black Buick sedan, was issued a ticket for a license plate that expired Dec. 24. The city purchased the vehicle in November. Permanent tags have been affixed to the car and Keesling said the fine issued to the vehicle was paid in cash.
After an exchange of emails in which Henry said he from now on would park in the small lot under Citizens Square, Henry sent an email to several city officials stating reassigning the space formerly used by Keesling to the city attorney. Keesling had a space in the Citizens Square garage, as well as in the Town Center garage across Clinton Street, which is attached to Citizens Square by a covered walkway.
In an email Tuesday, Henry offered to return Keesling's parking space. Keesling has not said whether she plans to accept that offer.
In the recording, Keesling said she was sorry Henry was upset with her, but said she's worked for two years to "do what's right and bring integrity back to the office," something Henry, in the recording, acknowledged that she's done. Keesling acknowledges that Henry has received negative publicity since the saga began, but noted that she would have faced equal scrutiny had her parking control officer not issued a citation.
Over the course of the recording, Keesling repeatedly asks Henry whether her space was taken away in retaliation for how she handled the citation. At one point, Henry replied, "Exactly."
"It's not only because there was write-ups in the paper blaming me for something that wasn't my fault," Henry said. "Now that's gotten out on social media. That makes it even worse because my wife gets Facebook, I don't but she does, and isn't it funny how your husband the mayor gets a ticket. Did the mayor have to pay the $100?"
In an interview Wednesday after his State of the City address, Henry said it was unfortunate Keesling recorded what he thought was a private conversation, but expressed desire to move forward. Henry again said he made no sexist remarks and did not abuse his authority. Henry also characterized the issue as petty.
"It was obviously a disagreement between the two of us. Her points have been made, I've tried to offer an olive branch. Whether she accepts that is up to her," Henry said. "But I'm ready to move on and tackle some new initiatives and challenges for Fort Wayne."