ALLENTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Residents in Allentown are outraged after the city's parking authority showed up at a monthly food pantry to issue parking tickets to patrons.
It all started as Pastor Alejandro Escamilla from the Fuente de Vida Church on St. John Street was handing out food to people in need this past Saturday.
Apparently, someone from the neighborhood complained to authorities about the dozens of cars that showed up for access to the food bank.
A short time later, an officer from the Allentown Parking Authority showed up doling out parking tickets.
Pastor Escamilla says ticketing people who need help was bad enough, but the inflexibility really surprised him.
The pastor says, "They go, 'We are the law. You have to respect the law.' And I mean, this is not the way to work with a community."
But many people here in Allentown say this is merely a microcosm of a larger issue.
Greenberg Lemus runs a local eatery on Hamilton Street.
He says the parking authority issues tickets to his food suppliers who show up early in the morning for deliveries.
Lemus says he pays those tickets, but if it keeps up he will go out of business.
"I have paid almost $9,000. Nine-thousand dollars since I first opened in October 2021. If this keeps up, I'm in trouble," he says.
Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk says he's heard the complaints, and what happened at the church this past weekend was the straw that broke the camel's back.
"I need to see the parking authority take action. I need to see the parking authority recognize that the way they've acted, it has not been appropriate," said Tuerk.
In response, Ted Zeller, chairman of the Allentown Parking Authority, says the fees for the tickets issued outside the church last weekend have been waived.
"We had no business issuing tickets to people waiting in a food line. It's just not defensible. We're not even going to try to defend it," said Zeller.
He and the mayor now say some parking authority reforms and retraining are forthcoming with the hope of better balancing the rules of enforcement with the needs of business owners and the public at large.