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Audit: Shoddy Parking Meter Collections May Cost LA $500,000

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A potential windfall of nearly half-a-million dollars could boost the city’s coffers if the Department of Transportation improved its record-keeping of parking meters and upgraded the equipment used to monitor those meters, according to an audit released Thursday.

City Controller Wendy Greuel said the city could save nearly $500,000 per year by reducing the frequency of collections from parking meters — which generate about $33 million per year — and implementing better monitoring procedures.

“In these current economic times we need to make sure the city gets every penny it is owed,” she said.

The audit found that collections at the city’s estimated 36,000 meters are often hampered by broken handheld scanning devices. City workers use the devices to quickly find out which meters need collection.

Greuel found the city paid $290,000 for the scanning system up front but did not properly test the devices, which cost about $200,000 per year to maintain.

The department also does not have a process for reviewing how often to make collections, the audit found.

The department contracts with Serco Management Services to collect coins from meters and pay stations. Serco is paid based on the number of meters it collects from — about $2 million in 2009.

“The department agrees with the findings and recommendations in the controller’s audit,” DOT spokesman Bruce Gillman said. “We’ve already implemented many of the recommendations and have replaced most of the older meters with new `card and coin’ meters and pay stations that automatically advise if service is required.”

Greuel’s audit is the third in a series of damning reports about the department, which caused Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to call for a top-to-bottom investigation of LADOT and to appoint a new interim general manager.

Previous audits found the department was failing to collect almost $15 million by not sufficiently pursuing parking scofflaws and neglecting to impound vehicles with more than five unpaid parking tickets nearly 73 percent of the time.

Greuel also uncovered the existence of a “Gold Card” desk, where city officials could call to challenge parking tickets. She found that many of the tickets that were cancelled lacked proper documentation.

She has since subpoenaed records for all 1,000 tickets that were resolved through the Gold Card desk during a recent two-year period.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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