CLAYTON, Mo. — St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell is surrendering his fight to avoid paying hundreds of dollars in parking tickets issued on his government-funded vehicle.
According to Clayton municipal court officials, Bell submitted a $580 payment on Tuesday evening to cover the 12 outstanding parking tickets he racked up between March 29, 2019, and August 6, 2019.
A spokeswoman for Bell said no county dollars were used to settle the matter and that Bell used his own money.
Although the tickets totaled more than $800, court officials said Bell was only required to pay the lesser amount because they were in an appeals process, which stops late fees from incurring.
All of the tickets issued to Bell were associated with a 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe that's owned by St. Louis County government and funded through tax dollars but assigned to Bell's office for him to use.
The violations Bell were cited for include parking in a no-parking zone, parking within five feet of a fire hydrant and not feeding the parking meter.
Bell spent several months contesting the tickets and withholding payment. In fact, the dispute with the City of Clayton was supposed to go before a judge in mid-September.
That hearing has now been canceled.
It's unclear what exactly prompted Bell to suddenly make good on the debt. A spokeswoman for him and his office declined to offer any explanation, adding only the following statement: "We are not going to spend another moment on this matter."
Bell's chief of staff, Sam Alton, also settled up with Clayton on Tuesday with a payment of $110 for three outstanding parking tickets for his personal vehicle.
Those violations were for an expired meter and parking in a no-parking zone. According to Bell's spokeswoman, they were also paid for using Alton's own money and not with county dollars.
In July, the 5 On Your Side I-Team first broke the story on the parking issues surrounding Bell's use of the SUV and other county-owned cars assigned to his office.
At the time, Alton defended his boss and his own parking practices by saying the demands of their job require closer spots to their 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 added that it was "too tedious" for Bell and other staffers to park in the spaces they already have and that were used by the previous administration.
"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.
Taxpayers currently pay for a parking garage in downtown Clayton that is reserved exclusively for elected officials and other county employees. It contains spots for Bell, Alton and other top staffers in his office.
Although the garage is located across the street from the prosecutor's office and accessible through an enclosed walkway, the I-Team found Bell prefers to park the SUV wherever he wants on the various streets surrounding the justice center.
That practice is what triggered all the parking tickets until he reached a sweetheart agreement with Clayton Police.
From about June 25 to July 26 of this year, parking staff agreed to stop ticketing the five county-owned vehicles assigned to Bell's office so long as they were not blocking a fire hydrant or a crosswalk.
It was a deal intended to buy Bell some time as he worked to secure four additional spots in the surface parking lot across the street from the justice center on Carondelet Ave.
That move, which could potentially mean fewer spots for the public to use, remains unresolved as it awaits approval from the St. Louis County Port Authority, which owns the surface lot.
If approved, it would mean less money for both the county and Clayton because the two entities split the revenue from the lot's parking meters.
One government official told 5 On Your Side approximately $2,000 a month would be lost per meter if Bell gets his new parking spots.
An official from the port authority said it was unclear when the proposal might come up for a vote, but that it would require board approval.
It's unclear if the county would also allow Bell and his top staffers to also keep the spots that are already assigned to them in the employee garage.
According to Clayton Police, their agreement with Bell's office is now over and the five cars assigned to his office are eligible to be ticketed again.