It would appear that when it comes to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources what is good for the goose doesn't necessarily mean that the law applies to the gander.
An Internet-based photograph has been circulating showing an Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Watercraft pick-up truck – bearing the agency's logo on the driver's door and a state license plate on the vehicle's nose – parked in a handicapped-only slot.
It took a while to ferret out what the deal was but the Natural Resources Department finally did address the issue. Sort of, anyway.
Indeed, says the Natural Resources Department, the Watercraft Division was illegally parked in the slot. But that's really okay, the department says, because six-year Watercraft Division veteran officer Darren Barnett didn't actually see that it was a marked handicapped-only parking slot.
It seems that officer Barnett must have been in something of a crash-rush hurry to get to his safe-boating education class at southwest Ohio's East Fork Reservoir. In the process of engaging his warp drive, officer Barnett failed to take note of where he was parked.
Extrapolating its excuse further, Natural Resources Department said officer Barnett would not have broke the law “... had he noticed the (internationally recognized handicapped-only) symbol on the pavement reserving spot.”
“He even apologized to the marina staff when he discovered his error,” said Natural Resources Department spokesman Matt Eiselstein.
Problem is, one would have to be oblivious to the obvious in failing to see the ubiquitous blue-colored handicapped symbol with its stylized white-painted outline of a person sitting in a wheelchair.
Fact is - and based on the circulating photograph - Barnett's state-issued Watercraft truck covers only about one-half of the symbol. The rest of the colorful emblem is readily visible in front of Barnett's Ford-branded pick-up.
Ah, but the Department's excuse game gets better.
Had the handicapped-designated space also contained a mounted sign designating the slot as being off-limits to all but handicapped permit-holders, well then, surely it “...would have immediately drawn the officer's attention.”
As a result, the Natural Resources Department's wrist-slapping tisk-tisk-tisk reprimand of officer Barnett consisted of him being “... counseled on being more attentive when parking his vehicle.”
“(The) ODNR expects all of our employees, especially law enforcement officers, to comply with all laws, rules and regulations,” Eisestein said as well.
Oh really? What about officer Barnett paying for his mistake via the issuance of a ticket, or does the handicapped-only parking rule only apply to the public? After all, parking in a designated handicapped-only parking slot is an illegal activity, punishable by a fine of $250 to $500.
As a person lawfully empowered to own and use a handicapped placard, I am always ticked-off by violators who utilize such parking slots, no matter how feeble are their arguments. So, yeah, I do take this offense personally.
Frankly, I am both surprised and miffed that officer Barnett managed to avoid paying a fine for his lack of attentiveness. After all, if it is good for the public goose than it ought to be good for officer Barnett's gander as well.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Jeff is the retired News-Herald reporter who covered the earth sciences, the area's three county park systems and the outdoors for the newspaper. During his 30 years with The News-Herald Jeff was the recipient of more than 100 state, regional and national journalism awards. He also is a columnist and features writer for the Ohio Outdoor News, which is published every other week and details the outdoors happenings in the state.