The next time you’re attending a Titans game, check out the gated parking lot adjacent to the Juvenile Justice Center. As opposed to the Adelphia lots, which charge a $150-a-season parking fee, this particular lot is free. It’s only a tight spiral pass away from the stadium. And when the game is over, rather than sit among idling cars for 40 minutes, you could escape to I-65 before Frank Wycheck takes off his helmet.
But don’t plan on parking in this taxpayer-funded lot unless you’re a friend of Kenny Norman, the juvenile court clerk. While the lot is, in fact, not a part of the stadium at all, and is meant for employees of the Juvenile Justice Center, Norman reserves some of his prime spaces for his friends and family on game days. In stark contrast, Juvenile Court Judge Betty Adams Green allocates her portion of the parking lot only for employees who are on duty at the facility’s detention center.
To some, Norman’s exploitation is a harmless “Old Nashville” way of extracting private perks from public office. But while the practice is not exactly like being on the take for Al Capone, it’s nevertheless disavowed in Metro.
“The Juvenile Justice Center parking area is Metro property and should be used in a manner that is consistent with the business of the court,” says Metro law director Karl Dean. “While the judicial system is independent of the executive branch, the parking lot and the property itself belongs to Metro, and the parking lot on game days should not interfere with Metro business, which in that particular building continues 24 hours a day.”
Adds Dean, “The final responsibility for the parking lot rests with the government and not with the departments located there.”
At first, Norman told the Scene that he does not, in fact, hand out parking passes to his friends. Norman, who’s being challenged by Metro Council members Vic Lineweaver and Eileen Beehan for a tough reelection in May, says he allows his employees to park in the lot if they have tickets to the game. When asked why his friends have been spotted at the parking lot as well, he says that he had nothing to do with it. “I would assume that if my friends park there, it’s because they are friends with my employees,” Norman says.
But that’s not true, according to some of Norman’s own friends and family. “He gave me a place to park over there,” says Eddie Bryan, the secretary and treasurer for the state AFL-CIO and a friend of Norman’s for 16 years. Asked how he got his parking permit, Bryant says simply, “I asked for it.”
Norman’s brother in-law, State Sen. Joe Haynes, also parks in the juvenile court lot during Titans games. “Kenny gave me a parking permit,” the lawmaker says. Haynes says that, like Bryant, he doesn’t pay a cent for his prime spot. “I don’t think it’s abused,” he says of his parking privilege. “I don’t know of many people who park there, and we probably go to maybe half the games a year.”
The spaces at the Juvenile Justice Center parking lot are divvied up between Judge Betty Adams Green and Norman, who is in charge of the administrative aspects of the court. Unlike Norman, Green has employees on duty at all hours of the day and night, and she reserves her spaces for official court business.
“The juvenile court’s policy is that employees are not allowed to park there unless they are actively at work at that time,” she says. Green says she does not allow anyone to park at the facility for Titans games.
What about Norman’s far looser parking policy? “My concern is not who parks where but that we have enough vacant space so we can get vehicles here if we have an emergency,” Green says. “If a parent needs to come pick up a child do they have a place to park? If the police need to come here for whatever reason do they have a place to park? There are safety concerns that have to be addressed with how we use the spaces out there.”
And in fact, Green is not just speculating. Earlier this year, a fight broke out in the detention center on a Titans game day. Partly because the facility’s parking lot was jammed with cars, it took staff more than two hours to take one of the injured kids to the emergency room.
Green was reluctant to criticize the juvenile court clerk outright, but sources close to her say that she and Norman tangled over the parking issue earlier in the year. Green’s point of contention is that her on-duty employees sometimes can’t find parking anywhere close to the facility during Titans games, because their lot is full. It’s worth pointing out that the court employees getting the squeeze work low-paying jobs with odd hours while having to keep the peace for dozens of unruly and often dangerous juveniles.
Providing them a parking space is the least the city could do.
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