The Hartford Parking Authority has told the city it is willing to control some municipally owned parking lots downtown that auditors say should have been transferred to the authority years ago.
The offer comes after a state audit concluded that the Capital City Economic Development Authority had failed to verify the city's compliance with a law requiring the transfer of all city parking facilities to the authority.
According to the auditors, the city failed to turn over some surface lots that have been operated by private managers since the early 1990s.
The audit, released in January, said that the 1998 statute establishing the Hartford Parking Authority required the city to turn all parking facilities — including surface parking lots — over to the authority before CCEDA approved funding for any city projects. The auditors recommended that CCEDA not approve future state funding until the city can confirm that it has scheduled the transfer of the lots and is in compliance.
Established by the General Assembly in 1998, CCEDA initially was authorized to spend $300 million in public money to revitalize the capital city. Nearly $4 million in state funds, earmarked for parking and housing, currently need the agency's approval.
City officials contend that under city ordinance, some commercially operated lots are not managed by the authority because they fall outside the definition of "parking facility." Still, the city has agreed to transfer the lots in question anyway, city officials said.
The audit and subsequent letters from the city's parking authority refer to parking lots downtown — lot "12-B," operated by R&G Parking LLC, a company owned by Curtis D. Robinson, since 1994; and a small lot at Main and Chapel streets operated since 1993 by G&G Parking, a company owned by former state Rep. Abraham L. Giles.
James Kopencey, the executive director of the authority, this week released a copy of a letter he had written on Feb. 25 to Lee Erdmann, the city's chief operating officer, expressing the parking authority's willingness to take over management of the lots. Kopencey said he had received a request from the city to propose a schedule for transferring them to the authority.
"Our letter is to give them notice that we are willing to take them over," Kopencey said.
According to the letter, Robinson's lease runs through December 2008, after which the parking authority proposes it would take over the property and bid for a new management contract.
The city can't locate a lease for the lot run by Giles, Kopencey said. And though the property is oddly configured and would be difficult to operate "in a traditional manner," the authority proposed taking over that lot by Jan. 1, 2009.
Sarah Barr, communications director for Mayor Eddie A. Perez, issued a written statement saying the city is reviewing the process needed to transfer the lots to the authority. A plan will be presented to the city council for approval, she said.
She then characterized the audits findings as "against CCEDA," not the city, and said that CCEDA "has been aware that certain lots have not been under the authority of HPA since the ordinance was passed in 1998. For the past seven years, CCEDA, with full knowledge of the status of the HPA, has issued bonds in support of numerous projects and this issue has never been raised."
Anthony L. Lazzaro, deputy director and general counsel for CCEDA, said he believes Barr is wrong that CCEDA has known, but chosen to ignore, the status of the lots. The agency staff first learned of the lots from reports in The Courant and again in the state audit, he said. Lazzaro said he has found no records to indicate there was knowledge of the lots by CCEDA any earlier.
"We did not know of any lots that were in their hands," Lazzaro said. "We don't have investigatory authority here, we don't have people to force them to show us records or anything of that nature."
"We have been relying on assurances from the city," Lazzaro said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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