Lawrence parking “vulnerabilities”

State and federal investigators have been probing irregularities in Lawrence’s public parking lots for months. They arrested one parking lot attendant, Justo Garcia, an ally of Mayor William Lantigua, earlier this month, and charged him with pocketing cash from the city garages. Now an independent audit of the Lawrence parking system is describing an organization so riddled with cash leaks and irregularities, it’s a wonder that any cash from the parking lots finds its way into the city’s coffers.

Robert Nunes, Lawrence’s state-appointed financial overseer, released an audit Monday that detailed “fiscal and operational vulnerabilities” that make the city parking lots ripe for a shakedown. Nunes began looking into the parking lots after investigators from the FBI and the Essex County DA’s office arrested Garcia two weeks ago.

Nunes found a parking system where lot attendants’ cash collections are not supervised or verified, but are essentially recorded on the honor system; where administrators let cash accumulate in drawers for weeks, only making sporadic bank deposits; where employees lack job titles or formal responsibilities; and where obsolete, decades-old surveillance equipment makes security and employee oversight next to impossible.

“The entire parking operation lacks any formalized standard operating procedures, instructions or best practices,” Nunes wrote. And in the absence of oversight, the parking lots, especially the city’s two large parking garages, appear to have sprung massive leaks in their cash drawers.

The Eagle Tribune writes that cash collections at the Museum Square Garage, the facility where Garcia was stationed, showed a massive drop. Collections at the garage topped out at $31,000 in February 2011, and had been regularly coming in between $21,000 and $27,000. Last month, the garage reported just $7,370 in parking fees — a stunning 65 percent drop from the same month last year.

According to the Eagle-Tribune, the FBI and state police investigators put the Museum Square Garage under surveillance in March. They arrested Garcia in early June, just days after the city closed the books on May’s dismal numbers.

                                                                                                                                                                –PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

State Auditor Suzanne Bump says some of the dead whose Social Security numbers were used to obtain welfare benefits had been dead for decades, a fact that should have been caught by the Department of Transitional Assistance, State House News reports (via Lowell Sun).

Senate President Therese Murray, who is required by Senate rules to step down from her post at the end of next year because of term limits, says she has been asked by supporters to run for governor, “but I haven’t made any decision yet.”

Senate leaders, led by Murray, unveil a welfare reform plan, WBUR reports.

Prospective medical marijuana sellers and buyers ask the state Department of Public Health to lower its fees, CommonWealth reports.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Quincy Chamber of Commerce is close to getting the signatures needed to place a question on the ballot in November to raise the term of mayor from two years to four. CommonWealth looked at the issue of mayoral terms in our spring issue.

Lynn enacts a foreclosure mediation law, the Item reports.

A Superior Court judge has tossed the results of April’s election for Fairhaven’s Board of Health where the challenger was first declared the winner before all the votes were counted, then lost by one vote in a recount, then was said to be in a tie with another candidate when a disputed ballot was thrown out.

Cambridge violated the state’s Open Meeting Law when it appointed its new city manager.

CASINOS

Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette wants a casino or a slots parlor; Rep. Joseph Wagner does not.

Foxwoods officials believe that their proposal for a suburban parcel in Milford will be selected over the competition in East Boston and Everett.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Texas Gov. Rick Perry signs legislation requiring residents applying for unemployment benefits to submit to a drug test if their answers to a screening questionnaire indicate possible drug use, the Texas Tribune reports.

Nevada’s governor signs into law a bill setting aside $20 million for film tax credits, the Reno Gazette-Journal reports.

Joe Biden hasn’t given up on gun control. He plans to deliver a progress report later today.

The GOP gives up on that whole making themselves seem reasonable thing, and instead delivers a kiss to the party’s socially conservative base, in the form of tough new abortion restrictions.

ELECTIONS

When it comes to TV ads, Democratic Senate candidate Ed Markey and his backers are outspending Republican Gabriel Gomez and his supporters by a 3-2 margin, WBUR reports. Leading into tonight’s final Senate debate, Keller@Large laments that the campaign has devolved into “organic waste.”

Donald Berwick, a pediatrician and former Obama administration health care official, formally announces a run for governor, State House News reports (via WBUR). The Globe story is here.

Is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker the lightning rod conservative dark horse presidential hopeful the GOP has been dreaming of? (This is not a good question to ask Charlie Pierce.)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A lawsuit filed in Boston yesterday says there is nothing funny about the substandard wages paid to amusement park workers, many of them Mexican immigrants, by a New Hampshire company slated to set up rides for more than 15 fairs across England this year.

The Globe profiles three entrepreneurs who are hoping to blaze a trail into the state’s new medical marijuana sector.

Six developers bid to construct 120 homes at Devens. CommonWealth previously covered the tension over residential redevelopment at the state-owned former military base.

Despite the popularity of food trucks in Boston, owners of the mobile eateries says the city’s byzantine regulations cut into profits.

May’s historic surge in home sales was way too good to be true.

Three major charity watchdogs are urging donors to ignore the drumbeat on overhead costs and look at a nonprofits’ results when deciding to give.

EDUCATION

The Salem School Committee appears poised to end the extended school year at the Saltonstall School, ending a nearly two decade experiment, the Salem News reports.

Two troubled Roxbury schools that officials are trying to get on track, Madison Park Technical Vocational High School and Roxbury Community College, will also join together to provide a path for students to concurrently earn a high school diploma and two-year associate’s degree.

More woes for the embattled head of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

U.S. News & World Report ranks the top 500 high schools for the all-important science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and three Massachusetts schools crack the top 25: Acton-Boxborough Regional High School (10); Advanced Math & Science Academy Charter School in Marlboro (22); and Lexington High School (24).

HEALTH CARE

Paul Levy questions editorial responsibility of medical journals in presenting clinical data findings, specifically focusing on a study by doctors performing an elective pediatric surgery who had a patient die without revealing that result in their outcome presentation.

The National Review, pointing out that “not all states are Massachusetts,” traces the impetus for Romneycare to a 1996 Massachusetts law that banned using preexisting conditions as a reason to deny health care coverage and the solution was unique to the Bay State.

TRANSPORTATION

A 24-year-old West Bridgewater man has died from injuries he received when he crashed head-on into another car when he was texting while driving.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Fairhaven selectmen have issued a written order to the developer of the town’s turbines to shut the turbines down at night after the operator declined to abide by the Board of Health vote because it wasn’t in writing. The developer also indicated his intention sue to to recover lost revenue from the town because of the idle turbines.

The Daily Beast looks into a program that is essentially crowd-sourcing for solar power, with a fixed rate of return for investors.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

John Martorano, in chilling hitman fashion, dispassionately provides testimony linking Whitey Bulger to at least six murders. (More to come today.) The problem for the Bulger defense, writes Kevin Cullen: “Even if they convince the jury that Johnny is twice as bad as their client, that means Whitey is half as bad as a trigger-happy sociopath who has admitted to murdering 20 people, including a woman, some teenagers, and a good friend.” Howie Carr mocks the man he split a $110,000 book advance with. Peter Gelzinis marvels at the irony of a guy with one more murder than Bulger on his rap sheet stepping off the witness stand, slipping out the back door and being driven home. And all because Whitey broke Johnny’s heart!

Boston officials are mapping out plans to address a spike in violence that has coincided with the arrival of warmer weather.

A veteran Lawrence cop awaiting trial in Florida for child rape is now charged with sexual assault of a girl under the age of 13 in New Hampshire, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The Salem News, in an editorial, decries the slap on the wrist that a judge gave to former Hamilton police chief Walter Cullen in connection with an EMT certification scandal.