Opinion 94 - 2


This opinion represents the views of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered. The opinion may no longer represent those views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments that bear on the issues discussed in the opinion.

CITIES--Fees (exemption from parking meter fees for city officials)

PARKING AND TRAFFIC REGULATIONS--Parking Regulations (exemption from meter fees for city officials)

VEHICLE AND TRAFFIC LAW, 1200, 1600, 1604, 1640: In the absence of express statutory authority, a city may not enact an ordinance which would exempt the mayor and members of the city council from paying parking meter fees while on official duty. 1980 Opns St Comp, No. 80-23, 89 and 3 Opns St Comp, 1947, p 551 are superseded to the extent inconsistent.

You ask whether a city may adopt an ordinance which would exempt the mayor and members of the city council, while on official business, from paying parking meter fees when parking their personal vehicles in the city's on-street parking meter zones. Currently, the city exempts from payment only persons possessing handicapped parking permits.

Vehicle and Traffic Law, 1604 provides as follows: Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, local authorities shall have no power to pass, enforce or maintain any ordinance, rule or regulation requiring from any owner of a motor vehicle, or from any operator or chauffeur to whom this chapter is applicable, any tax, fee, license or permit in the use of public highways, or excluding any such owner, operator or chauffeur from the free use of such public highways ... and no ordinance, rule or regulation contrary to or in any way inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter, now in force or hereafter enacted shall have any effect.(emphasis added).

Further, Vehicle and Traffic Law, 1600 provides that: [t]he provisions of this chapter shall be applicable and uniform throughout this State and in all political subdivisions and municipalities therein and no local authority shall enact or enforce any local law, ordinance, order, rule or regulation in conflict with the provisions of this chapter unless expressly authorized herein...(emphasis added).

Therefore, a city's authority to enact local legislation imposing fees for parking on public highways is defined exclusively by the Vehicle and Traffic Law.

Pursuant to Vehicle and Traffic Law, 1640(a)(9), the legislative body of any city, by local law, ordinance, order, rule or regulation, may "[p]rovide for the installation, operation, maintenance, policing, and supervision of parking meters, establish parking time limits at such meters, designate hours of operation of such meters, and fix and require the payment of fees applicable to parking where such meters are in operation ...". Section 1640(a)(17) of the Vehicle and Traffic Law expressly authorizes a city to grant to persons possessing handicapped parking permits an exemption from parking meter fees (see also Vehicle and Traffic Law, 404-a, which establishes a procedure for the registration of motor vehicles of severely disabled persons, and 1203-a, which provides for the distribution of parking permits for handicapped persons). There is, however, no similar express statutory authority for a city to enact an ordinance granting to the mayor and members of the city council an exemption from parking meter fees.

Moreover, it is our opinion that such authority may not be implied from the city's general authority to fix and require the payment of parking meter fees. Vehicle and Traffic Law, 1200(c) states that "[w]hen parking is prohibited by this article, or by local law, ordinance, order, rule or regulation, no person shall park a vehicle ..." (emphasis added). In examining the propriety of a city ordinance distinguishing between residents and nonresidents for purposes of regulating parking, the Court of Appeals interpreted Vehicle and Traffic Law, 1200 as "... indicating parking restrictions should be applied to 'persons' generally ... " (New York State Public Employees Federation v City of Albany, 72 NY2d 96, 102, 531 NYS2d 770, 773). The Court further stated that "it is apparent that when the Legislature has intended to authorize exceptions to the general rule, it has done so expressly ..." (id).

Accordingly, it is our opinion that, in the absence of express statutory authority, a city may not enact an ordinance which would exempt the mayor and members of the city council from paying parking meter fees while on official duty. 1980 Opns St Comp No. 80-23, p 9 and 3 Opns St Comp, 1947, p 551 are hereby superseded to the extent inconsistent.

March 18, 1994
William M. Kavanaugh, Esq., Corporation Counsel
City of Newburgh