T letter cites parking revenue theft

Calls for audits at 13 lots going back to 2013

THE MBTA HAS FORMALLY notified its parking lot operator that the company breached its contract by failing to reimburse the transit authority for money stolen by employees.

The notification, which came in a letter dated Thursday from MBTA General Counsel John Englander to LAZ Parking, is the first time the T has publicly identified employee theft as the cause of “revenue discrepancies” at the agency’s parking lots.

The letter also implied that the theft could be massive in scope. In the past, officials have indicated the revenue discrepancies were confined to one or possibly two lots and involved relatively minor amounts of money. In his letter, Englander demanded that LAZ hire an independent auditor to track down missing parking revenue at 13 facilities going back to the beginning of 2013.

The 13 parking lots are located at the following T stations: Beachmont, Malden Center, Oak Grove, Orient Heights, Sullivan, Wellington, Wonderland, Lechmere, Riverside, Forest Hills, Wollaston, and two lots at North Quincy.

The letter from Englander to Marc Lutwack, executive vice president and partner at LAZ, was copied to Joseph Savage Jr. and Yvonne Chan, who are both partners at the Goodwin law firm, which has been retained by the T.

In an email, Lutwack indicated his company is working with the T. “LAZ has been responsive and fully cooperative with the MBTA’s requests and investigations, and will continue to be as these processes move forward,” he said.

The parking issue emerged publicly for the first time in early April, when the MBTA, in response to inquiries from CommonWealth, confirmed that daily revenue reports in late February or early March from the North Quincy MBTA parking lot didn’t match up with actual vehicle counts conducted by the agency. Top MBTA officials in early April told CommonWealth they were unaware of the revenue discrepancies.

The MBTA asked LAZ to investigate, and LAZ reported back that it had taken appropriate action to deal with the problem. It was later revealed that two LAZ employees were fired.  The issue was subsequently referred to the MBTA Police and an outside auditor was brought in. The investigation was turned over to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office last month.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

In his letter to LAZ, Englander expressed frustration at LAZ’s failure to respond to requests for a meeting. He noted that under the T’s contract with LAZ the parking lot operator is “liable for losses of revenue to the MBTA as a result of employee theft.” His letter also stated: “Revenue discrepancies resulting from employee theft were identified to LAZ months ago (and has resulted in the termination of at least two LAZ employees), yet none of this missing revenue has been returned to the MBTA.”

CommonWealth reported on Thursday how revenues at the T’s eight largest surface parking lots had risen sharply in March compared to January and February. Revenues remained high through the end of June, up 35 percent over the six-month period. The strong numbers suggested either more people were parking at T lots or that the parking investigation and firings had disrupted an operatioin that was siphoning off money. The story quoted a T spokesman as saying the authority believes it is owed money by LAZ.