T discovers parking fee discrepancies
Agency allows private operator to handle the problem
THE MBTA SAID IN A STATEMENT that it has uncovered discrepancies in parking fees collected at the North Quincy Red Line Station, and asked the private operator of the parking facility to provide a full accounting. The discrepancies surfaced more than a month ago, but T officials released the statement on Tuesday after inquiries from CommonWealth.
The T’s top two officials, General Manager Frank DePaola and Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve, said on Monday prior to a meeting of the Fiscal Control and Management Board that they were not aware of any problem with parking fees. A couple hours later aides confirmed an investigation was underway and promised to provide details.
The MBTA statement said T officials periodically check parking operations, comparing daily revenue reports with physical vehicle counts at parking lots. During one of those checks, the T statement said, a discrepancy was discovered at the North Quincy Station. Discrepancies were not found at any other T parking facilities, the T statement said. The amount of the discrepancy was not disclosed.
A source familiar with the situation said until this week it appeared the T was trying to sweep the incident under the rug. The source said discrepancies were discovered at six parking lots, with the discrepancies amounting to $1,200 to $2,000 a day. The source said at least one LAZ employee had been dismissed in connection with the parking fee discrepancies, but that employee said he left to take a new job and had nothing to do with the parking fee discrepancies.
Instead of turning the issue over to law enforcement, the T on March 7 asked its private parking lot operator, LAZ Parking, to investigate. According to the T statement, LAZ responded this week, nearly a month after the discrepancies were first identified. Laz said it had investigated and has “taken appropriate action as a result of those investigations, and have and continue to make improvements to the auditing, cash handling, and revenue recording/reporting procedures,” according to the T statement. The company promised a written report next week.
The T statement included a quote from DePaola, who said Laz must improve the auditing process at all of the 11 parking facilities it oversees.
The T also released a letter that Ronald Ross, the agency’s director of parking, sent to Marc Lutwack, executive vice president of LAZ, on March 24. The letter said the parking fee discrepancies and the results from the company’s preliminary investigation amount to a default under the T’s agreement with LAZ. Ross said LAZ may have to reimburse the T for any lost revenue and pay financial penalties that would be deducted from the company’s monthly management fee.“If there appears to have been substantial fraud or criminal wrongdoing by LAZ employees, we expect you to take appropriate action with respect to the perpetrator(s),” Ross wrote. He added: “If we are satisfied with your internal actions, we may not require an independent auditor to review your procedures.”
Efforts to reach Lutwack at LAZ Parking were unsuccessful.