Flower Lady’s fine is subject of dispute

Shikha Bhattacharjee ’06, Dwight Hall’s social justice network liason, said Thursday that she gave Annette Walton, better known on campus as the Flower Lady, $75 cash to pay for a court-ordered fine, though court documents indicate no such fine exists.

Bhattacharjee said she gave Walton the money, which she collected from a group of students, with the expectation she would be reimbursed by Dwight Hall. But Dwight Hall co-coordinator Brian Goldman ’05 said the community service and social justice umbrella organization has yet to approve the payment.

Bhattacharjee said Walton told her she was ordered to pay a $75 fine for violating her city-issued vending permit. Although Walton did appear in New Haven Superior Court Wednesday to answer the charge, court records indicate the state’s attorney decided not to pursue the case or fine Walton.

Walton repeatedly said last week she had been told by her public defender that she owed the fine, and denied that anyone gave her money to pay it. Omar Williams, Walton’s public defender, said he never told Walton she owed any money.

Walton received a summons Aug. 17 for violating her vending permit, New Haven Police spokeswoman Bonnie Winchester said in an e-mail. According to the police report, Walton was vending without a table or stand and in front of a public building at the corner of Church and Grove streets. She was also yelling loudly and stepping into the paths of pedestrians, Winchester said.

Bhattacharjee told the Dwight Hall executive committee about Walton’s fine last week. Goldman said the executive committee decided Dwight Hall might be able to cover the fine through the Loving Kindness Fund, which enables students to assist city residents through small one-time disbursements.

Dwight Hall has yet to officially approve any payment to Bhattacharjee. Dwight Hall Public Relations Coordinator Ben Staub ’06 said the matter may be addressed during the Dwight Hall Executive Committee’s meeting on Wednesday.

Goldman said the validity of Walton’s claims would not be the primary factor used in evaluating Bhattacharjee’s application for reimbursement.

“This is the first I’ve heard about any uncertainty about whether there was a fine or not,” Goldman said. “If it turns out that there wasn’t actually any fine, it’s not just going to be a question of whether the fine is valid or not valid. It’s going to be a question of how we can help Shikha with an unfortunate situation.”

Bhattacharjee said she thought the fine was an important social justice issue based on Walton’s account of the hearing.

“I felt like it was an attack on a member of our community,” Bhattacharjee said.

Walton, who has been selling flowers at the corner of York Street and Broadway for years, has frequently depended on the goodwill of Yale students. In 2000, when she was arrested for disorderly conduct while selling flowers without a license, 100 people protested at the New Haven Superior courthouse and slept out on the city Green. Students also led a fundraising event for the $200 license Walton needed to sell flowers legally.

When asked about the different accounts of the hearing, Walton said she would have to ask her social worker about the fine. Walton declined to give the contact information for her social worker.

Annette Walton sells flowers on the corner of York and Broadway. A student gave Walton $75 to pay a fine that Walton did not actually incur.
Timothy Polmateer
Annette Walton sells flowers on the corner of York and Broadway. A student gave Walton $75 to pay a fine that Walton did not actually incur.

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