Following Auditor General’s report, calls mount to end state control of Philadelphia Parking Authority

Following Auditor General’s report, calls mount to end state control of Philadelphia Parking Authority

Author: Jason Gottesman/Friday, December 8, 2017/Categories: News and Views, Philadelphia

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale recently issued a scorching report of the management of the Philadelphia Parking Authority by its oversight board that he said allowed for an unchecked, irresponsible executive director and practices that led to the School District of Philadelphia missing out on nearly $78 million in funds from uncollected parking fines.

“It is clear from my audits that the PPA Board of Directors was like an absentee landlord when it comes to managing the day-to-day operations of the PPA and failed to oversee the activities of the former executive director,” DePasquale said.

“Specifically, the board failed to oversee the activities of the former executive director allowing him to not only operate the PPA inappropriately, but to also engage in sexual harassment, and take advantage of his position for his own personal financial benefit.”

The previous executive director, Vince Fenerty, stepped aside in 2016 amid a number of sexual harassment and abuse of power claims made from within the parking authority. PPA agreed to a payout of more than $227,000, about $2,000 more than DePasquale’s office said should have been paid.

While he noted that the PPA board has taken some affirmative steps to clean up its operations since Fenerty’s departure, it has largely been too little, too late for an organization that had been corrupted by a secretive hiring process, ran rampant with claims of sexual harassment, and had a less-than-transparent closed contracting process.

In addition, DePasquale noted, years of inept management in the PPA’s hierarchy led to the School District of Philadelphia missing out on nearly $78 million from uncollected parking violations.

According to state law, all on-street parking violation money is to go to the school district except $35 million is directed to the city.

“All outstanding revenue PPA does not collect is funding lost to the school district and the city,” DePasquale noted.

 

“Every effort should be made to collect unpaid ticket revenue to increase the amount that can be used to educate students in the district. I guarantee you this, if PPA staff didn’t get paid until all revenue was collected, they would find a way to get 100 percent of the funds. They should work just as hard for students in the district.”

 

DePasquale noted he will be sending the results of his audit to proper taxing and law enforcement authorities for action, and he called for an end to state control of the Philadelphia Parking Authority.

 

In response, the Philadelphia Parking Authority noted that 80 percent of the Auditor General’s recommendations for change have already been implemented.

 

The authority also took issue with the assertion that its actions have left the School District of Philadelphia without $78 million in funding.

 

"That assertion does not appear anywhere in the audit report and is not supportable. It assumes that every parking ticket issued over the last five years will be paid in full including penalties. The PPA has an 89 percent collection rate over a three year period, one of the highest in the country," the authority said.

 

"The collection rate required under the Auditor General’s analysis is unreasonable and is unheard of in the industry. Even those counties where parking tickets are criminal violations which result in arrest and imprisonment do not have a 100 percent collection rate."

 

The board noted it is turning the page on a “new chapter” in the authority and focusing more on its core mission of providing high quality transportation and parking services for the people of Philadelphia.

 

"In fulfilling that mission we also have better tools for providing those services efficiently and with great integrity. Through all these efforts, the Board will continue to monitor our performance and continually strive to move to higher levels of public service," they said.

 

However, as the report suggests, calls are mounting from within city and state government for state control of the authority to end.

 

Currently, the board, by state law, is comprised of six members who are all appointed by the governor. However, the parking authority itself is seen as one of the last bastions of Republican patronage in the city of Philadelphia.

 

That said, at the end of November Philadelphia City Council’s Minority Whip David Oh (R-At Large) introduced a resolution calling on the city and state to work out a way to return the authority to city control.

 

The resolution is set on city council’s final passage calendar for next week.

 

Additionally, following the release of DePasquale’s report, Gov. Tom Wolf called on the state to divest itself of control of the PPA.

 

“In the nearly two decades of mandated state control, the PPA has become an over-bloated patronage pit that wastes taxpayers dollars and has failed to deliver better customer service or stronger organizational function for the people of Philadelphia,” Gov. Wolf said.

 

“The findings of the Auditor General’s audit are disturbing and display a culture that runs afoul of good government and basic decency. I urge the General Assembly to swiftly abolish state control of the authority and return the functions of the PPA to the citizens and local government of Philadelphia.”

 

Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-Philadelphia) has introduced state legislation that would end Commonwealth control of the Philadelphia Parking Authority by the middle of next year.

 

On Friday Rep. Boyle asked for swift consideration of his legislation in light of the Auditor General’s findings.

 

“In recent years, when we put our quarters in the meter on Market Street, it paid for parking,” Boyle said. “Unbeknownst to us, for a period of time, it also paid for the executive director to get his perversions up and running by abusing a position of power through continued harassment and degradation of women under his supervision. The PPA board chairman knew about it – and did little to nothing to stop it from continuing," he said.

 

“This is beyond comprehension for any reasonable person. The PPA needs serious reform. It should not continue to operate under the leadership of Chairman Ashdale and it would behoove him to resign immediately. As a state legislator, I will continue to push for my legislation that would return the PPA back to the City of Philadelphia”

 

His legislation is currently in the House Urban Affairs Committee, which has a scheduled voting meeting for next week, but has not sunshined consideration of Rep. Boyle’s legislation.

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