UPDATE 7/19/19:

The City of Clayton tells 5 On Your Side the total amount owed by St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell for unpaid parking tickets is $555.

While the total dollar amount of what's owed, including late fees, adds up to nearly $800, the city says some late fees are not being applied in this case.

That's because the city says the tickets are in the appeals process, and when a ticket goes into that process, the fine increases stop until the appeal status is removed.

It's one of the many pains of trying to park your car in a busy metro area.

You have to constantly feed the meter, or risk getting slapped with a ticket.

But in downtown Clayton, there seems to be a different set of rules for Wesley Bell, who was sworn in as St. Louis County's new Prosecuting Attorney in January.

Now, after just seven months on the job, the 5 On Your Side I-Team has found that Bell has accumulated 10 unpaid parking tickets while using a government-issued vehicle.

The tickets were all issued by the City of Clayton between April 4 and June 18 for violations like parking too close to a fire hydrant, not feeding the meter and parking in a no-parking zone.

Each ticket stems from Bell's use of a red 2016 Chevy Tahoe that's owned by St. Louis County and paid for with taxpayer money.

Based on Clayton's established fines for parking violations, the I-Team calculated that Bell's 10 unpaid tickets total $735.

I-Team reporter Jacob Long asked Bell's Chief of Staff, Sam Alton, why the debt hasn't been paid for several months.

Alton said, "Well, because if you take the position that we need to be parking there and we're doing official business, and we're allowed to be parking there, that's the issue."

The comments came after Alton briefly appeared in Clayton municipal traffic court last week on behalf of Bell, who was not there.

Bell's challenge of the unpaid parking tickets was supposed to be the subject of a trial, but the judge postponed the matter until August.

Outside of court, Alton told the I-Team Bell's main argument for not paying the tickets lies in the unpredictable nature of the prosecutor's office.

"I'm only saying listen, we need those spots. There are certain people in our office who are moving around a lot more every single day," he said.

Alton said Bell and his senior staff believe they should be able to park right outside their offices inside the Buzz Westfall Justice Center on sections of S. Central and Carondelet Avenues.

This is despite the fact that Bell and his senior staff, including Alton and Operations Director Tim Swope, have parking spots already assigned to them right across the street on Bonhomme Ave. inside a secure, covered garage that's reserved exclusively for county employees.

The I-Team asked Alton why they don't want to use the garage, pointing out it is less than a block away from the prosecutor's office.

"The only problem is we're a little different than other county employees in terms of an emergency and the urgency of things," Alton said.

He added that some employees on Bell's staff need to leave the office at least seven times a day, if not more, depending on various events or crimes that occur in the county.

"To have to walk all the way over there (to the other garage) and walk all the way back, it doesn't sound tedious, but I promise you it is tedious especially if you need to get somewhere fast," Alton said.

So for now, as those taxpayer-funded parking spots sit empty, Bell is continuing to put the Tahoe wherever he wants with no consequences.

On at least four different occasions, the I-Team's cameras caught the SUV parked at expired meters and sometimes in spaces reserved only for taxi cabs.

But we also noticed the Tahoe wasn't getting any tickets even as Clayton parking enforcement was in the area citing other similar violations.

Turns out, Clayton Police have decided to temporarily stop ticketing Bell and other senior staffers, including Alton and Swope, so long as they're not blocking a fire hydrant or a crosswalk.

Swope is assigned a county-owned vehicle and has no unpaid parking tickets the I-Team could find.

Alton uses his personal car for work-related purposes and is currently on the hook for three unpaid parking tickets from Clayton between February and June.

Lt. Mark Smith, Clayton's interim police chief, told the I-Team the department is using its "discretion" until Bell's office comes up with a permanent solution.

That same discretion could also be why Bell's SUV hasn't been towed, even though Clayton's city code says vehicles owing $250 or more in unpaid fines are eligible to be hauled away.

The I-Team asked Alton if he or the prosecutor's office were benefiting from favoritism or asking to be above the law.

He said, "If I was asking for an exception for myself, I'd ask the county to pay for my car, but I'm not asking for that. I'm paying for my own vehicle even though I use it for work every day."

Alton said long-term, Bell's office is working to get new spots outside the justice center reserved just for them.

Depending on where those spots end up, it could mean fewer spots are available for police who often park in the area and other visitors.

People told the I-Team they think Bell is benefiting from a double standard.

"I think he should have to pay. I mean, he makes good money. We pay him good money, enough to pay if you get a ticket. If I had $700 in tickets, they would have towed my car," said John Doll.

Paula Burrows said, "We would definitely be hunted down if we tried to get anything, they would come after us for it. They'd be taking my license or I'd be in court."

It's unclear when a deal to secure new parking spots for the prosecutor's office will be done and what might happen to their existing spots.

For context, the I-Team spoke to former prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch, who was assigned the same Tahoe that Bell now uses.

McCulloch stated he almost exclusively parked in the county employee garage and didn't mind going between those spots and his office daily.

He said he rarely got a parking ticket for parking illegally on the street, but if he did he paid it out of his own pocket and not with money from his office.

Bell and Alton's tickets remain unresolved, so it's not clear how they could ultimately get paid.

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