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City lacks accurate inventory of parking meters, audit says

June 9, 2011 |  9:58 am

Parking Meter Technician Gerardo Salazar peers into one of many parking meters along Myrtle Street in Ddwntown Los Angeles in August 2010

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation does not have an accurate inventory of its parking meters and does not have proper controls in place to ensure all collections are being made, according to a new audit released Thursday.

"In these current economic times we need to make sure that the City gets every penny it is owed," Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel said in a statement.

"I hope the DOT heeds my audit recommendations and immediately puts controls in place to adequately ensure collections are being made from all parking meters," said Greuel, who authored the audit.

The findings also show the transportation department "spends a substantial amount of money on faulty scanning devices that are used to track the revenue from parking meters," according to a news release.

Greuel's audit was the last in a series of three recent investigations into practices and policies within the transportation department.

The first audit, released in April, showed that the department had been lax with chronic scofflaws who rack up multiple unpaid parking tickets, resulting in up to $15 million in missed revenue.

A second audit in May highlighted a little-known "Gold Card Desk" designed for elected officials and their aides to fast-track citation reviews for their constituents -- and possibly have fines eliminated or reduced.

That audit showed approximately 1,000 parking tickets were dismissed through the Gold Card program over a single two-year period –- some without justification -- and Greuel, a possible mayoral candidate, raised the specter that some may have received special treatment through the program because its oversight seemed lax.

Some at City Hall defended the program as a constituent service comparable to graffiti removal, but Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa still quickly ordered the desk closed, saying even the appearance of preferential treatment is unacceptable. He also called for a "top-to-bottom management review" of the agency.

That May review also showed that the transportation department was paying its ticket-processing contractor to process citations that had been voided because of an error and did not require any review.

Villaraigosa has nominated one of his closest deputies, Jaime de la Vega, as new interim general manager to lead the embattled department, which has come under increased scrutiny because of alleged behavioral misconduct by some employees.

Those charges stem from two traffic officers who were placed on leave after allegations that they participated in a pornographic film involving the use of a city vehicle and city uniforms.

Villaraigosa also temporarily appointed Michael C. Williams, a top police department commander, to help oversee reforms within the department's parking enforcement division. Williams said that one of his priorities is to see whether high-tech management systems can improve accountability and communication.


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Steve Lopez: Can the Hummer guy fix L.A.'s transportation problems?

-- Ari Bloomekatz

Photo: Parking Meter Technician Gerardo Salazar peers into one of many parking meters along Myrtle Street in Ddwntown Los Angeles in August 2010. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times