You won't believe how this story ends. Nor will you ever see it on Parking Wars. That's because Gundersen and his partner, Paul (who did not want his last name used in this column), did nothing wrong with their own vehicle.
What brought on the vitriol was a PPA vehicle parked in a no-parking zone at 6th and Carpenter streets in Queen Village, where Gundersen lives.
Gundersen and Paul, both 31, were walking south on 6th Street when they spotted the white PPA Chevy. It was unoccupied, its flashers were off and it was partially parked on the sidewalk, blocking the curb cut.
That parking infraction might have earned any of us up to $209 in fines: $51 for being in a no-parking zone; $51 for parking on the sidewalk; $31 for leaving the vehicle unattended; and $76 for blocking the curb cut.
"I found it highly ironic," says Gundersen, general manager of a car dealership, who took a photo of the car and planned to post it on Facebook for laughs.
But the PPA officer, Joseph DeJohn, wasn't laughing as he approached Gundersen and Paul. According to both men, DeJohn snarled, "You wanna take a picture of my b---s to go with that?"
"He said, 'You think you can get me in trouble with that picture? You don't know anyone!' " recalls Paul, a student. "He said, 'If you faggots don't have anything better to do than take pictures of my car, why don't you suck each other's b---s?' He kept telling us to take pictures of ourselves f---ing each other."
Gundersen says he tried to remain calm, telling DeJohn, "Look, you've crossed a line." But Paul had heard enough.
"Once he called us faggots, I lost it," admits Paul, who countered DeJohn's slurs with some choice words about DeJohn's mother as DeJohn drove off.
Rattled, the men walked another 50 feet to Gundersen's home when, to their shock, DeJohn circled back and parked in front of the house. He got out of his car and continued his rant.
Recalls Gundersen, "I was scared. I thought, 'This man knows where I live.' "
While Gundersen ran inside to call 9-1-1 - "He couldn't get the key in the door fast enough," says Paul - DeJohn allegedly repeated his taunt that neither man knew anyone powerful enough to get him into trouble.
"I said, 'Yes we do, and you're about to find out,' " says Paul. "I think he figured out that we'd called the police, and he took off."
A "very professional, competent and compassionate officer" arrived moments later and took the men's complaint, Paul says.
On Monday, Paul told me their story.
I called the PPA on his behalf. The agency conducted an investigation. And by 4 p.m. yesterday, PPA executive director Vince Fenerty issued this stunning proclamation:
DeJohn has been suspended without pay, with intent to dismiss in 10 working days.
"Mr. DeJohn's conduct towards two citizens while on duty as a Parking Enforcement Officer . . . was totally inappropriate and completely unacceptable," Fenerty said in an email. "The PPA has a zero tolerance policy against the mistreatment or harassment of any citizen by our employees . . . The PPA is proud of our history of inclusion and diversity - where our employees and managers represent the diverse nature and makeup of our city."
Further, Fenerty added, starting today "senior management staff will provide a refresher briefing at all roll calls to remind [employees] of our standards of professional conduct.
"On behalf of all Authority staff," Fenerty concluded, "I apologize to these citizens for the inappropriate treatment by one of our employees."
Gundersen and Paul were grateful for the PPA's quick response.
"There has to be consequences to hateful words and actions," says Gundersen, who is on the board of the Philadelphia chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, the national advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights. "I am not litigious. I've even had good interactions in the past with the PPA. But this was unacceptable."
Says Paul, "I feel bad for the guy. I'm sure he has family who depend on his job. But you can't treat people this way."
You know what's most telling about this "ironic" story?
DeJohn wasn't even illegally parked. So a photo of his car in that no-parking zone wouldn't have gotten him in trouble.
PPA spokesman Marty O'Rourke explained that the no-parking zone allows a 20-minute parking allowance, with a 5-minute grace period, for all vehicles - not just PPA cars.
So DeJohn could've used the "gotcha!" photo session as a teachable moment to explain a PPA policy that would've been good news to hear. They all could've chuckled, and Gundersen might even have posted the photo on Facebook with a caption praising a great PPA officer named DeJohn, who took the time to explain a misunderstood PPA rule.
Instead, inexplicably, DeJohn chose a hateful response.
That's not ironic.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 215-854-2217. For recent columns:
www.philly.com/Ronnie. Read Ronnie's blog at www.philly.com/RonnieBlog.