State Center Community College District Trustee Eric Payne has a court date next month for allegedly parking in a handicapped spot using an expired placard that had been issued to his cousin.
Payne, 29, isn't disabled. A State Center police officer watched as Payne parked in the spot and then — late for a board meeting — jogged into the district office. In a police report, the officer recommended that Payne be cited on a misdemeanor charge of unlawful use of a handicap placard.
The Fresno County District Attorney's Office, however, still is reviewing the case.
State Center officials declined to comment on the matter, but did provide a copy of the police report.
"I was in a rush and so I completely apologize for parking in the stall," Payne said in an interview. "I take ownership over that. It definitely will not happen again."
According to the police report on the incident, a State Center officer was doing a check of the State Center board meeting around 4:45 p.m. on June 4 when he saw a vehicle "cornering aggressively as it took the turn at a high rate of speed."
The vehicle then parked in a handicap stall near the State Center district offices on the campus of Fresno City College. The driver "exited the vehicle and jogged past me as he made his way to the District Office building," the report states. The officer recognized the driver as Payne, the report says.
Payne's account of the incident largely mirrors what he told police the day of the incident: He had used the placard to transport his cousin, who has lupus, and then went to the board meeting.
In the interview, Payne said he often used the placard when he drove his cousin to doctor's appointments and to run errands.
"I would pick her up from work and help her run errands," he said. "It was her placard. I had the understanding that it was still good, but I don't know what happened after that."
The officer, according to the police report, checked the placard's registration and found out it was expired and had been reissued in April.
Payne told SCCCD police that he had transported his cousin that day and then returned for the board meeting. He was late for the board meeting and there were no available spaces, the report said, so he told police he "took the next available spot," which was the handicap stall.
At the time, Payne told police he did not know the placard had been reissued and didn't know whether his cousin had any other placard.
SCCCD Police Chief Bruce Hartman was notified, and he contacted Payne around 11:30 that evening, after the board meeting finished. He was taken to the SCCCD police office where he was photographed and fingerprinted.
Payne has a court date scheduled Sept. 3.
— John Ellis
Vidak learning way around state Capitol
Andy Vidak has a week under his belt as the newest state senator.
His staff is in place, he is meeting people, and he is finding the bathrooms in the state Capitol — "but not all of them yet," he joked.
This week, he has been voting on bills. He is seated next to a fellow Valley Republican — Anthony Cannella of Ceres. But, so far, he has yet to be appointed to any committees.
His chief of staff is Jim Kjol, who held that post for Jeff Denham when he was in the Senate. Kjol was most recently working for state Sen. Joel Anderson, a Republican from Alpine in east San Diego County.
"I got a warm reception from all sides up there," Vidak said. "It's been 14-hour days. A lot of people want to meet me. I'm enjoying it. I see some opportunity."
Vidak, a Hanford Republican, beat Bakersfield Democrat Leticia Perez in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Democrat Michael Rubio. He will face re-election next year.
— John Ellis