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Chick Wants Audits of City Lots

The controller seeks a broader examination of cash handling by parking attendants after a study uncovers irregularities at one site.

November 10, 2005|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

A year after an audit found shoddy handling of money at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, a new review found many of the same problems still exist at the facility's city-run parking lots, with officials still unable to fully account for cash, officials said Wednesday.

Alarmed by her findings, City Controller Laura Chick is calling for audits of all city-run parking lots to determine whether the problem goes beyond what she found at El Pueblo's five lots, which bring in $1.8 million annually.

"It is mind-boggling to me that some parking lot attendants are still storing cash in their pockets," Chick said. "There's no excuse for not providing basic, common-sense safeguards to protect the public's money."

Auditors found discrepancies between tickets issued and cash collected, Chick said. At one lot, where a cash register is available, auditors found the daily cash report for one day was $835 short of the $3,415 that the cash register tape indicated had been collected.

Another lot that averaged $661 on weekdays was found to have brought in only $360 one day, and operators were unable to explain why.

Chick stopped short of accusing city employees of stealing, but said the General Services Department, which runs the lots, needs to remove the temptation for workers to pocket money.

"What we've seen here is absolutely an atmosphere where skimming could be occurring, freebie parking that is not appropriate could be occurring" and public money is not being accounted for, Chick said.

The city has a history of theft from its parking lots. In 1988, more than 30 parking lot employees at Los Angeles International Airport were arrested for allegedly taking public funds, Chick said.

The workers were all employees of a private contractor that operated LAX's 25,000-space parking concession at the time.

An administrator for the General Services Department said many improvements have been made at El Pueblo in the last year, and the department is close to installing safes and other cash-control equipment at remaining lots.

"We are well on our way," said Tony Royster, assistant general manager for the agency.

Royster said no employees have been found to be stealing.

The department operates 30 parking lots with up to 10,000 parking spaces that generate $9 million annually for the city in parking fees.

Chick also has been auditing parking operations headed by the Recreation and Parks Department, including a lot at Pershing Square downtown.

Royster said that the parks department was only netting $300,000 annually from the Pershing Square parking garage when it was run by a contractor. In the four years since the General Services Department took over operations, the annual take has increased to $2 million, which Royster attributes to the fact that earnings are kept in house rather than split with a contractor.

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