Man fights, wins appeal of smoking citation issued in Pittsburgh park

PITTSBURGH — One of the first people cited under a new city ordinance that bans smoking in Pittsburgh parks spoke with Channel 11 News on Monday after scoring a courtroom victory.

Brian Bigley said a young man who identified himself as a park ranger ordered him to put out his cigarette last summer in Riverview Park while he was setting up sound equipment for a concert.

“(A) guy comes over and says, ‘You can't smoke here.’ No ID. No official type uniform,” Bigley said. “I had no idea who he was. He said he was park ranger.”

Two years ago, Pittsburgh hired park rangers and the City Council gave them the authority to issue smoking citations. Bigley said an off-duty police officer working security for the concert came to his aid.

“He had never heard of a smoking ordinance for the parks and basically doesn’t know what a park ranger is and told the guy to get away from me,” Bigley said.

Bigley said about a week later, he received a citation in the mail for $35 for smoking in a city park. In response, the city’s police officers union filed an unfair labor practice against the city, claiming park rangers don’t have the authority to issue citations.

A district judge found Bigley guilty, but he appealed the decision and a judge last week found him not guilty.

Bigley said the judge seemed aggravated by his case, in part, because the park ranger who wrote the citation wasn’t at the park at the time.

City officials on Monday told Channel 11 News that citations from park rangers are no different than the ones issued by code inspectors or animal control. They said the rangers will continue to enforce park rules and regulations.