EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 18, 2013

Review finds lax oversight at garages

LAWRENCE — The city’s parking lots and garages are monitored by attendants whose cash-only collections are not verified, overseen by administrators who let the cash sit in drawers for weeks and secured only by obsolete surveillance cameras installed decades ago, according to a review released yesterday.

Robert Nunes, the city’s state-appointed fiscal overseer, began the review after a parking attendant was accused and another was implicated in what investigators say is the theft of thousands of dollars in receipts from the Museum Square garage, the city’s largest parking facility.

After an investigation that lasted less than two weeks, Nunes said he found a parking system riddled with “fiscal and operational vulnerabilities” that made it ripe for a shakedown.

“The entire parking operation lacks any formalized standard operating procedures, instructions or best practices,” Nunes said. “There are no official job titles for managers and no detailed list of responsibilities for any of the 21 employees.”

Nunes asked for 14 reforms, including converting the seven lots and two garages from cash-only collections to the so-called pay and display system recently installed on downtown streets, where drivers buy parking tickets at kiosks and display them in their windshields. Nunes also wants armored cars to replace the parking attendants who pick up collections from the seven parking lots and two garages at the end of every day.

Nunes, a deputy commissioner in the state Department of Revenue, gave Mayor William Lantigua 30 days to provide a schedule for putting the reforms in place.

Lantigua did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Along with the six-page report detailing the lax oversight at the parking division, which is part of the Department of Public Works, Nunes also released a spreadsheet with 2,469 lines detailing daily collections at eight of the city garages and lots since 2007. At the Museum Square garage, the data shows collections peaked at $31,059 in February 2011 and have hovered mostly between about $21,000 and $27,000 since then.

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