Daley Administration Officials (Unsurprisingly) Knew About Parking Meter Deal Problems Before They Became Public

By Chuck Sudo in News on May 23, 2013 8:50PM

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Photo Credit: Ann Fisher
From the “Duh!” file: Former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration was haggling over billing with the private consortium they handed over the city’s parking meters over to years before those billing issues became public under Mayor Rahm Emanuel. This deal truly is like herpes, flaring up like a cold sore when you don’t want.

The Sun-Times reports the Daley administration and Chicago Parking Meters LLC began arguing behind the scenes about disability parking reimbursement billings as early as May 2010. The disputed billings didn’t become public until December 2011. Chicago Parking Meters wanted $56 million in reimbursements related to free handicapped parking, which the city disputed amid reports some able-bodied residents were abusing the privilege. Daley’s chief financial officer Gene Saffold, in a December 2010 letter, wrote “Vehicles with clearly expired or fraudulent placards or exempt plates have no right to avoid paying the required meter-parking fee.”

Chicago Parking Meters CEO Dennis Pedrelli responded in March 2011:

There is no basis . . .for the city’s claim that vehicles displaying exempt placards or license plates that are expired or fraudulent should be excluded. The definition of exempt persons expressly includes ‘persons claiming to be exempt persons,’ which is exactly what persons displaying expired or fraudulent placards are engaged in doing.”

Even with the disputed billing, Daley allies cashed in on the deal. The public relations firm of Daley’s former press secretary, Avis LaVelle, was paid over $518,000 over a three-year period. $3.5 million was paid to Monterrey Security, a firm owned by former Chicago police officer Juan Gayton.

The Illinois state Legislature passed a law last year intended to crack down on drivers abusing handicapped parking placards, which was also aimed at lowering the bills from Chicago Parking Meters. But that was before Emanuel announced changes to the parking meter deal last month where the parking meter company could make even more revenue over the remaining 71 years of the deal. The linchpin of the deal involves a swap of free neighborhood parking on Sundays in exchange for an extra hour of metered parking on weeknights and three more hours downtown and in River North. City Council is expected to vote on the changes next month.