A city audit says Durham has failed to collect about $750,000 in parking tickets because the city’s Transportation Department failed to tell a contractor to use a collection agency.
The on-street parking citations totaling $753,919 were issued between July 1, 2012, and Aug. 31, 2015.
During that time, Lanier Parking Systems Inc. managed the parking facilities. Republic Parking System Inc. took over in September 2015, and in November, the Finance Department and Transportation Department started discussing a collections process for outstanding citations, according to the audit.
The Finance Department recommended Republic Parking System use a collection agency on citations more than 90 days old.
“However, Republic Parking System was never instructed by the Transportation Department staff to utilize the services of a collection agency,” the report states.
Harmon Crutchfield, the Transportation Department’s interim director, said there was a miscommunication between the Finance Department and his office.
In addition, the report states, citations issued by Republic that were more than 90 days old were not being sent to a collection agency. After auditors raised the issue, the Transportation Department sent a letter June 2 to Republic advising the company to use a collection agency to collect on outstanding balances.
Durham’s overall collection rate is 71 percent, above the 64 percent industry average, Crutchfield said.
Ticket penalties escalate over time. A $20 ticket doubles after 30 days, and a $15 penalty is added after 45 days. Vehicles with four unpaid tickets can be booted.
The audit, which the City Council likely will discuss Thursday, also questioned the Transportation’s Department monitoring of cash collection and credit card reconciliation at the city’s five parking garages, as well as voided and appealed on-street parking violations.
Straightening out the concerns will fall to Terry L. Bellamy, City Manager Tom Bonfield said. Bellamy, an assistant director in San Antonio’s Department of Transportation and Capital Improvements, will become Durham’s transportation director Aug. 15. He will replace Mark Ahrendsen, who retired in March.
Bonfield said he was surprised by the amount of unpaid tickets.
“I think we need to revisit the whole policy,” Bonfield said, particularly since the city is planning to convert the free on-street parking to a paid system in November.
“I really think it’s going to be multiple times worse if we don’t figure it out,” Bonfield said.