Mayor’s office accuses Greuel's former staff of having used special ‘Gold Card Desk’ for parking citations
In an audit released this week, City Controller Wendy Greuel harshly criticized a little-known program for city officials to fast-track citation reviews, but some at City Hall say she must have known about the program despite her claims otherwise.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office released information Thursday that Greuel's office used the service while she was on the council and provided email correspondence from Greuel's office seeking help from the Gold Card Desk in 2006.
She also voted in 2006 to award a contract to the L.A. Department of Transportation's ticket vendor -– Affiliated Computer Services -– that included the Gold Card Desk service.
The mayor's office also said that Greuel had been informed of the Gold Card Desk while on the council, both through a report from the city's Transportation Department and in written documents in 2007 explaining that the department would be briefing members of her field staff about parking citation issues.
Greuel's field staff was also given a PowerPoint presentation in 2008 in which "the Gold Card Desk was specifically identified and discussed," according to an email from the mayor's office.
"As chair of the City Council's Transportation Committee then-Councilmember Greuel was briefed on all aspects of the department's operations and was fully aware of the Gold Card Desk," said the email from Villaraigosa's office. "For example, in 2007 and 2008, LADOT staff briefed the Mayor's and City Council field offices about the parking citation process as well as the adjudication process so that they provided better service to our constituents."
Greuel's audit showed that 1,000 tickets were dismissed -– some without justification -- over a two-year period through the "Gold Card Desk," a service under the auspices of the L.A. Department of Transportation that few outside city government appear to have known about.
Greuel has consistently said that she only learned of the program during the audit, and was unaware of the Gold Card Desk while she was a councilmember and never used the service.
But Greuel said she stands behind the audit's findings, which suggested that the process allows some to get special treatment.
"You should not need political pull to expedite the investigation of a ticket," said Greuel, a possible candidate for mayor. "There were no specific policies to guide the review of these citations."
In a sample of 40 dismissals through the Gold Card Desk, Greuel said that in "90% of those cases there was not a paper trail [showing] where those original requests came from or justification for that dismissal."
Some of the tickets receiving expedited reviews, according to the audit, were tossed out solely based on the violator's self-proclaimed inability to pay -– a complaint Greuel's investigation portrayed as a dubious reason for dismissal. Some tickets were eliminated without the required paperwork. Other requests for dismissal did not include any reason at all.
Amir Sedadi, interim general manager for the LADOT, said there are no plans to continue the service in the department's upcoming contract negotiations this summer. And Councilman Bill Rosendahl said he helped plan a joint-committee meeting on June 8 to discuss the Gold Card Desk.
Many at City Hall and within the Transportation Department have defended the integrity of the program, which started 20 years ago, saying it is a constituent service comparable to calling the mayor or council offices to ask for graffiti removal.
-- Ari Bloomekatz
Photo: City of Los Angeles Parking Violations Bureau Gold Card. Credit: Office of Councilman Richard Alarcon