Providence workers fired for parking meter favoritism

Pare: No evidence of 'quid pro quo'

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Two veteran parking enforcement officers in the city of Providence have been terminated amid allegations that they allowed employees at a downtown coffee shop to park their cars without feeding parking meters.

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said Monday the two parking officers were putting orange parking ticket envelopes on the coffee shop employees’ cars, but not actually assigning parking tickets to the vehicles over the course of several months.

“It’s about honesty and integrity,” Pare said. “They were less than honest in performing their duties.”

Pare said the police department did investigate whether the two city employees received any form of compensation for not assigning parking tickets, but the probe did not turn up any evidence that the coffee shop or its employees were involved in the scheme.

“We didn’t find any evidence of a quid pro quo or any free lunches or dinners or even a free coffee,” Pare said. “There was no sort of bribery that took place.”

“They were just doing a favor and giving them preferred parking,” Pare said.

Pare declined to identify the two employees because they have both filed grievances against the city disputing their terminations.

Parking enforcement officers are members of Local 1033 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. Ron Coia, the union’s business manager, did not respond to a phone call or email Monday.

A review of city payroll records shows there were 21 parking enforcement officers working for the city as of Aug. 3. Nearly all of them earn $38,000 a year.

The average parking ticket for failing to pay a meter is $25. The fine doubles after 14 days and triples after 28 days. Once a ticket hasn’t been paid for 30 days, the recipient is summoned to municipal court.

In 2013, reported that the city was owed $31,207,499 for more than 400,000 parking tickets that were at least a month overdue. The city entered into an agreement with Public Finance Strategies LLC to securitize tickets deemed uncollectible in exchange for a $1-million payment as well as a percentage of future collections.

Earlier this year, the city announced it would add 700 parking meters near the vacant I-195 land, on Federal Hill and on parts of the East Side. The city also increased rates during special events, such as concerts or basketball games at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

Those changes, along with a plan to make all meters accept credit cards, are expected to raise the city an additional $2 million a year.

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Dan McGowan ( ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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