Pol 'pulling teeth' in Parking Authority audit: Butkovitz blasts bungled spending, free-parking allocation

Posted: July 29, 2009

A city-controller audit of the Philadelphia Parking Authority is close to declaring the controversial agency top-heavy with managers, unorganized in how it spends money and unwilling to say who gets free-parking passes at the city's airport.

A draft of the audit, prepared three weeks ago and obtained by the Daily News yesterday, is now being reviewed by PPA staff.

One point of contention: The city has issued the PPA 82 free passes that can be used for premium airport parking spaces.

City Controller Alan Butkovitz yesterday complained that the PPA had missed deadlines to provide a list of who gets those passes and why. That lack of cooperation, he added, was a frequent problem during the audit.

"The Parking Authority really was very slow to respond to requests for information," Butkovitz said. "It was a constant question of pulling teeth."

PPA spokeswoman Linda Miller said her agency provided the information yesterday to Milligan & Company, a firm hired by Butkovitz to compile the audit.

Miller said the passes are used by PPA employees who work at, maintain or clean the agency's airport parking lots and garages.

"The badges are not used so they can park their cars and go on trips," Miller added.

Miller said there is much in the audit that her agency "adamantly disagrees with" but she said she was pleased to see a section that said the salaries of top staffers are not out of line.

"Given the magnitude of responsibility of PPA's executives and the size of operations, in our judgment PPA's salaries are within a competitive range," according to the audit draft, which covers 2006-2008.

Gov. Rendell called for the audit in the fall of 2007 after the Daily News reported that the PPA's payroll doubled after a 2001 take-over engineered by then-state House Speaker John Perzel.

Twenty PPA employees were paid more than $100,000 by 2007, up from just two employees before Perzel's agency take-over.

Ken Snyder, a spokesman for Rendell, said the governor has not seen the audit, but hopes any issues raised could lead to better management and more revenue provided to the city and the Philadelphia School District.

"We're pleased at least these issues have been illuminated and we're eager to see them addressed," Snyder said.

Vince Fenerty, the PPA's executive director and a Republican ward leader, started making budget moves to address concerns shortly after Rendell called for the audit. The PPA imposed 6 percent pay cuts on about 20 managers, which reduced Fenerty's $194,830 salary by $11,690.

The audit draft also found:

_ The PPA has one supervisor for every six employees, but that drops by more than half in the agency's departments for administration and strategic planning, where there is one supervisor for every two to three employees.

Butkovitz called the PPA, which has 1,100 full- and part-time employees, "top-heavy" with managers.

Miller countered that the PPA has eliminated 19 supervisor jobs since 2006 and that the city controller has no similar parking authority anywhere in the country to compare the PPA with when it comes to staffing levels.

_ The PPA was unable to produce a complete list of all the contracts it has issued since 2006. When the auditors requested copies of 30 random contracts, four, worth more than $25,000 each,could not be located.

* The PPA diverted nearly $2.6 million in revenue from 2006 to 2008 to pay back bond money borrowed for parking garages. Butkovitz said the agency should use cash for garages to cut that cost.

Miller responded that the agency has issued no bonds in 10 years. She said the PPA last did so in the 1990s for economic-development projects at 19th and Walnut streets and 8th and Market streets that later faltered. Miller said those projects were driven by the city when Rendell was mayor.

Miller said Fenerty will act on any recommendations made by the final version of the controller's audit and release a report within six months explaining what actions were taken.

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