DETROIT (WWJ) – The next big scandal to hit Detroit city government could involve the municipal parking department.

WWJ Newsradio has learned that Detroit’s inspector general has just wrapped up an independent investigation of the city’s parking department. Details won’t be revealed until possibly next week, but WWJ has obtained a copy of a scathing audit of the department.

That audit found co-mingling of funds, questionable expenses, poor record keeping and in some instances, no record keeping at all by Park-Rite Detroit, which runs lots and garages for the city.

“One issue is that they paid one employee making $12.50 an hour for 6,400-some hours with no time cards,” Steven Hicks, president of Teamsters Local 283, told WWJ’s Vickie Thomas. In comparison, most fulltime workers log just over 2,000 hours a year.

Auditors said they could not verity the expense because records were missing or incomplete.

Because of the investigation, Hicks said the city is firing Park-Rite and laying off 14 union workers.

“My understanding is that Norman White, from municipal parking, is going to lay everyone off. They’ve got rid of the company running the garages, which is Park-Rite Detroit. They told Park-Rite they’re done and they’re going to be laying the employees off,” Hicks said. “They said [the employees] can apply to be a security guard watching over the garages, with no benefits. We believe this is nothing but union busting. Why the city would be involved in it, we don’t understand.”

In a strange twist, Hicks said it appears the city might hire the general manager of Park-Rite, Theresa Kozak, under a personal service contract.

“It’s pretty strange that Normal White would want to hire the manager from Park-Rite. It’s strange that Park-Rite would allow the city to hire their manager, because most companies have an anti-compete,” Hicks said. “It’s kind of crazy what’s happening. We want to keep our employees working and we don’t think they should be hiring the general manager of Park-Rite to continue ripping off the city, we think.”

When contacted by phone, Kozak declined to comment. However, Michael Aubrey, president of Park-Rite, released the following statement:

“While we take issue with the findings in the Auditor General’s report, we acknowledge our documentation could have been better. Despite those challenges, the report found no instances of theft or malice on Park-Rite’s part. We are proud of the fact that since being awarded the contract in 2011, Park-Rite doubled the parking department’s revenues and tripled its operating income.”

The Detroit City Council is taking up the issue Wednesday afternoon.

Click here to see a copy of the audit (.pdf format)

 

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