NEW ORLEANS (AP) — At least two people who were hired to write parking tickets in New Orleans preferred instead to park in a coffee shop and make phone calls.
One even retaliated against a business that complained by ticketing its employees and customers.
That’s the assessment of the city’s Inspector General, who issued a report Wednesday that outlined several problems with parking enforcement in the Big Easy.
Inspector General Edouard Quatrevaux also said some parking officials made themselves look busy by ticketing cars parked near federal buildings and City Hall. The problem: the cars were unmarked law enforcement vehicles with placards on the dashboard indicating that the drivers were on duty.
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Citing 2014 figures, Quatrevaux said those tickets were dismissed — meaning more than $6,800 in fines were not collected and never used to offset the undetermined costs that included processing the tickets, sending collection letters or having an administrator go to the trouble of dismissing them.
Quatrevaux also asserted that Public Works Department officials dragged their feet in supplying documents for his report.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office said the city already has been addressing the problems that Quatrevaux spotlighted. A new vendor has been hired to streamline ticket operations with new hand-held equipment, making it possible to monitor the time of day and type of violation for all parking citations while also monitoring officers’ routes.
Quatrevaux said the probe leading to Wednesday’s report was slowed by a lack of cooperation from the parking division in the city’s Public Works Department, which failed to turn over some documents and took as long as nine months to turn over others. Ultimately, Quatrevaux found that at least two officers were guilty of spending too much time in coffee shops and violating city policy by spending long periods on personal phone calls.
One was found to have retaliated against a business by targeting a business’s customers and workers. An undetermined number busied themselves by ticketing law enforcement vehicles, he reported.
Parking enforcement administrator Zepporiah Edmonds was not in her office Wednesday and did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Quatrevaux said his investigation found that the officer accused of retaliating against a business was reprimanded and resigned. The City Hall statement said officials are determining the proper disciplinary actions for other officers, adding that the city encourages cooperation with the inspector general.
It was unclear which business allegedly suffered retaliation at the hands of the former ticket-writer. But the head of one coffee shop chain mentioned in the report said it has no problem with parking officers sticking around it’s shops.
“We are fortunate to have developed lasting and meaningful relationships with each of our guests,” said Celton Hayden Jr, CEO of CC’s Coffee House. “The men and women of New Orleans Parking Enforcement are no exception.”