Parking firm calls D.C. audit misleading, but same mgmt. team remains in place

Despite buyout, president & others still at helm

CINCINNATI - A company that may soon oversee Cincinnati's parking meters insists a highly critical audit of its performance in Washington, D.C., was based on faulty assumptions.

Still, executives concede mostly the same management team remains in charge of the firm despite its purchase by Xerox, and that some changes were made in D.C. based on the audit's findings.

As first reported by WCPO Digital Monday morning, a 2007 audit found more than 6,800 parking tickets were improperly issued to motorists parked at broken meters managed by Affiliated Computer Services (ACS).

Also, the audit concluded that outsourcing the meters to ACS increased costs by almost $9 million over a seven-year period, from 1999 to 2005, than if district personnel had handled the work.

When Cincinnati City Council questioned City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. about the audit during a meeting Monday afternoon, he downplayed the allegations.

"It's a period of pre-Xerox and post-Xerox," Dohoney told council. "None of the allegations which have been made are specific to Xerox."

Xerox Corp. bought ACS in 2010.

But Lynn Blodgett, who joined ACS in 1996 and became its president in November 2006, still retains the same role now that the company is renamed Xerox Services.

And during a break in the meeting, a Xerox executive said much of the same management team remains in place since the buyout, in response to WCPO Digital's questions.

"Yes, for sure. There's a lot of the same management team in place, pre- and post-Xerox," said David Cummins, senior vice president of parking and justice solutions for Xerox.

Asked if ACS made changes based on the critical D.C. audit, Cummins replied, "It's possible. We get audited by a lot by cities and we often make changes."

Although Cummins called the audit "discredited" to council, he said during the break, "I'm not trying to say the entire audit was incorrect. I'm sure some of it was factually correct."

Cincinnati City Council is considering turning over operation of the city's parking meters, garages and lots to the Port Authority.

Under the proposal, meters would be overseen by Xerox, while garages and lots would be overseen by Denison Parking. They, in turn, would use local employees.

Council's Finance Committee gave tentative approval to the plan Monday, and a final decision is expected Wednesday.

The 2007 audit found that ACS got paid nearly $645,000 in fees by the District of Columbia that it shouldn't have received. That was because ACS submitted bills for items it wasn't entitled to under the contract, which were paid.

Additionally, the audit found ACS routinely failed to repair parking meters within the 72-hour period specified in its contract.

Kevin Lightfoot, a Xerox spokesman, said the Office of the D.C. Auditor made multiple mistakes in the audit.

"Xerox and the D.C. District of Transportation both agree that the 2007 Washington, D.C., parking audit is wrong, based on misinformation and inaccurate assumptions," Lightfoot said.

"The District has realized significant savings, improvements and other benefits through this partnership," he added. "Xerox installed state-of-the art parking technology that the city otherwise would not have been able to afford. This resulted in a five-fold increase in parking revenue for the city over the last decade."

For instance, the auditors mistook "space inventory" with "meter inventory," Lightfoot said. There are more spaces than meters, but spaces were included in the total for missing meters.

Additionally, regarding the tickets issued at broken meters, he said, "District ordinance states that even if a meter is broken, drivers can be ticketed if they stay in a parking space beyond the legal time limit indicated on signage."

Lightfoot disputes the audit's conclusion that the meters could've been managed more cheaply in-house. Meter revenues were 62 percent higher under Xerox than they were under in-house operation, he added.

ACS has extensive ties to officials in D.C. It gave $10,600 to then-Mayor Anthony Williams to pay for a trade mission to Africa, according to NBC News.

Also, it donated another $8,000 to other elected district officials.

"Cash-starved cities are turning up the heat on parking scofflaws, hoping to plug budget gaps by pulling in millions of dollars in what's sometimes called a ‘curb tax,'" wrote NBC News columnist Bob Sullivan, in 2009.

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