Friday, May 29, 2009

Hands on the parking meter handoff

Posted By on 05.29.09 at 04:19 PM

Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan has opened an investigation into the "transaction and implementation" of Chicago's parking meter privatization deal, according to a Madigan spokesperson.

On May 19 the attorney general's office sent subpoenas to Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners, LAZ Parking, and Chicago Parking Meters LLC--the three entities that now control the meters--said Robyn Ziegler, who represents Madigan. She wouldn't say what specific information was requested.

The investigation is focused on "looking to determine if consumers have been defrauded," Ziegler said. "Broadly, we're looking for information related to the transaction and implementation of the new parking meter system." She said that might include the terms of the deal and nature of the contract. "I wouldn't rule anything out," she said--but then added, "We're not investigating the city of Chicago."

During a City Council committee hearing the day before the subpoenas were issued, aldermen accused officials from the three firms of "deceptive business practices" for collecting fares and ticketing cars even at spaces where the meters were mislabeled or not working at all. Several asked city lawyers to look into whether terms of their contract had been violated. Among them was the Fifth Ward's Leslie Hairston, who formerly worked in the consumer protection division of the attorney general's office. 

Ziegler said Madigan had spoken with Hairston but didn't know whether the investigation had been launched before or after their conversation. "It's obviously clear there have been significant problems with the implementation of the new parking meter system," Ziegler said.

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