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Op-Ed Tesei: Assertions about Parking Department unwarranted

August 4, 2018

There has been much written about the evolution that has been occurring in the Department of Parking Services over the past several months.

It is unfortunate that much of that writing has been based upon innuendo, false information that is presented as fact, and quite frankly, personal animus that has blurred the truth.

The latest diatribe by commentary columnist Mr. Horton includes all of the above as well as casting aspersions towards a staff that has been collaboratively and effectively working under a new leadership to create a more user-friendly, efficient and professional operation. In his most recent opinion column, Mr. Horton summarily assumes that the department is rife with malfeasance, misappropriation and potential for theft.

With a disregard for any positive trends presented to him by Parking Services Department consultant Ron Lalli, Mr. Horton continues to ignore the progress that has been made to correct deficiencies while impugning the efforts and reputations of dedicated town employees. Mr. Lalli invited Mr. Horton to come to the Parking Services Office and ask any questions he may have. His offer has not been accepted. There is now a series of checks and balances that eliminate past practices imposed by former Parking Services directors that allowed for employees to void parking tickets for a variety of reasons. The voidance of parking tickets is inappropriately being interpreted as a loss of revenue.

Ticket voids do not equate to malfeasance, misappropriation or theft as Mr. Horton has repeatedly stated. It is a fact that this columnist has refused to accept any offers of explanation about the ticket voiding process, its history and how improvements to that process have virtually eliminated the possibility of wrongdoing.

During the administration of the two previous Parking Services directors, there were several liberal policies in place that allowed ticket voids. In his review of the history of ticket voids over the past decade, Mr. Lalli, who retired recently as the town’s Risk Manager, authored a 33-page report that outlined how parking tickets were voided over the past decade and the changes to correct those practices.

Even prior to those changes being implemented over the past several months, the Parking Services Department had a fine-collection rate of 96 percent.

We anticipate the collection rate to improve even more with the process improvements.

Here is a how some of the ticket voids occurred over the years:

A parking enforcement officer (PEO) would void a ticket for incorrectly entering a license plate number for a violation. (If the data can be corrected before real time “street level” input a correction will be made avoiding a needless void transaction).

A warning ticket was counted as a violation and then voided. (Warning tickets now are issued off line from the automated system reducing confusion.)

The allowance of a void if a ticket violation holder protested their first violation. (This is no longer allowed.)

The allowance of three exceptions for parking permit holders to be exonerated for not displaying their permit tag. (Only one exception is now allowed.)

Previous Parking Services Directors authorized cashiers to void tickets to avert workload problems for the office and eliminate paperwork. (Now, Mr. Lalli, Business Manager Roderick Daquino and PEO Supervisor Angela Giordano are the only ones authorized to approve a ticket void.)

Overall total departmental revenue rose to $4,917,421 in Fiscal 2018, a 7.73 percent increase from Fiscal 2017. This is the strongest financial year in its history.

The Parking Services Department also has volunteer Parking Appeals Hearing Officers, who conduct regularly scheduled hearings. They have the discretion to reduce and/or dismiss parking tickets.

Recently, Mr. Horton published information from an audit commissioned by the Board of Estimate and Taxation’s Audit Committee, at a cost to Greenwich taxpayers of $152,703.58. The Audit Committee has kept that report confidential.

So to claim that the town lost more than $2 million in revenue because of ticket voids, is specious at best. That assertion did not afford readers the explanation they deserved of how the ticket voidance system operated in the past and how it has been improved.

It appears that the writer’s motives are questionable at best when he stated that the report was hidden during the 2017 election because it would have had a detrimental effect upon me. It is a fact that Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo specifically requested that the audit not be released, saying it would have a detrimental impact upon the pending criminal case in which a former Parking Services employee is charged with stealing more than $10,000 from the department. Mr. Colangelo stated this in an Oct. 2, 2017 email to Town Attorney J. Wayne Fox and Police Chief James Heavey.

Because of the confidentiality request, I will say that to put the audit in perspective, it was commissioned on the premise that there was malfeasance or misuse of existing policy. With that intent, the review produced an audit that infers only negativity. One should review Mr. Lalli’s internal review for a true perspective of departmental operations.

The department is moving forward to deploy license plate reader technology that will virtually eliminate potential for error in issuing tickets for expired permits, expired meters or missing permit tags.

Peter J. Tesei is First Selectman of Greenwich.

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