- Associated Press
Friday, February 14, 2020

NEW YORK (AP) - A New York councilwoman is accused of using her position to get out of a $50 traffic ticket.

City Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson agreed to pay a $5,000 fine for pulling rank to avoid a ticket during 2014 traffic stop, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Gibson, who is the chair of the city’s public safety committee, said she violated a section of the City Charter that forbids elected officials from using their positions for personal advantage.

Officer Michele Hernandez pulled Gibson over in the Bronx for a routine traffic stop in March 2014 after the officer saw her talking on the phone while driving. Gibson then proceeded to call Kevin Catalina, the commanding officer of the 44th Precinct of the New York Police Department.

Catalina instructed the desk officer at the precinct to tell Hernandez not to issue a ticket, according to Gibson.

When Hernandez returned to the councilwoman’s car, Gibson handed the officer her cellphone with Catalina on the other line.

“The deputy chief told the police officer that I was head of the Public Safety Committee and asked the police officer to admonish me instead of issuing a summons,” Gibson acknowledged in a settlement announced Thursday by the Conflicts of Interest Board.

The board ruled that Gibson as an elected official “should be held to a high level of compliance” with the conflicts law and that her behavior “could create the impression that high-level city officials receive preferential treatment from law enforcement.”

In a statement, Gibson said she should not have challenged the ticket and apologized to the community for her actions.

“I should have accepted a ticket if one was issued, and then contested it through the appropriate legal channels,” she said.

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