12/12/2017Pennsylvania: Audit Shows Motorist Cash Funds Lavish State Salaries
Pennsylvania auditor blasts Philadelphia Parking Authority from spending motorist tolls and ticket revenue on pay hikes for senior managers.
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Thursday released the results of his investigation of the Philadelphia Parking Authority's (PPA) use of cash collected from tolls, red light camera citations and parking tickets. The report blasts the agency's former executive director, Vincent J. Fenerty Jr, as an "unchecked tyrant." On Sunday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking into improprieties in the red light camera program that Xerox (Conduent) operates under a contract with the PPA.
"Because the findings in these two audits raise several significant and disturbing concerns, I will refer them to the IRS, the State Ethics Commission, and the attorney general's office for further review," DePasquale said at a news conference. "The board failed to oversee the activities of the former executive director allowing him to not only operate the PPA inappropriately, but to also engage in sexual harassment, and take advantage of his position for his own personal financial benefit."
Fenerty left his post on September 28, 2016, after a number of female employees complained about Fenerty's unwelcome advances. He cashed out with a check for $225,077. Ten years previously, he had been accused by female employees of the same conduct. The six-member PPA board nevertheless did its best to keep Fenerty at PPA for an extra year after the complaints resurfaced.
"Whether the PPA board knew about the 2006 complaint is almost irrelevant, because the four who were on the board should have known and they should have factored that into the 2015 decision about the former executive director's continued employment," the audit noted.
In addition, the report found PPA executives spent $1.2 million on themselves, in the form of incorrect reimbursement for expenses, gift cards, meals and pay raises. The sixteen top employees boosted their own pay by 20 percent over the course of just over two years. Fenerty's deputy, for example, pocketed $160,730 in 2014, a number that climbed to $208,166 in 2016.
The top six employees at the state agency abused the comp time system to pad their payouts, even though state employees who earn over $100,000 per year are not supposed to earn overtime, except under "extraordinary" circumstances.
"Based on the number of hours and occurrences of comp time, it appears that such time was not just granted for extraordinary circumstances, but, as PPA conceded, was liberally interpreted such that any occasion of overtime was acceptable," the audit found.
The PPA has a reputation as a place for political patronage jobs, and the audit found Fenerty used a closed process to hire whomever he wanted. Several meter maids were hired, for example, despite criminal background checks finding they had been convicted of drunk driving or drug manufacturing.
A copy of the audit report is available in a 3mb PDF file at the source link below. Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Philadelphia's vendor.