Parking Snafu Irks Hopkins

Mayor Demands Answers From Department Heads

November 22, 1991|By Robert Lee | Robert Lee,Staff writer

Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins has called his department heads onthe carpet for failing to explain how the city's off-street parking contract was allowed to lapse -- a mistake that may have cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Three months ago, a small parking firm complained that the contract to run Annapolis' off-street parking operations had expired in July 1989 and never was advertised onthe open market.

Calling the matter "very serious," the mayor said he is not satisfied with the explanations he's getting from his department heads.

"I have been speaking privately to my department heads, and I'm not satisfied with what I've heard," Hopkins said, without naming the department heads.

"I'm getting different responses to the same questions about what went on from department heads I retained from the previous administration."

Hopkins already has moved to correct the problem, by putting up for bids the contract to run Annapolis' off-street parking programs, which gross $1 million a year. A Request For Proposals advertisement will be completed this weekend, he said.

"But it's going to take longer to take care of my dissatisfaction with whyit happened," he said.

"I don't tolerate lying -- that's one thing. Because I can't trust them if they've lied. Has anyone lied to me?I don't know yet. Has anyone done something wrong that hurt the city? I don't know. But I'm of a strong opinion that someone is at fault."

Park America Corp. of Philadelphia has continued to operate the Hillman Garage, as well as the South and Larkin Street surface lots, under the terms of a contract signed in 1987.

An Annapolis parkingcompany, Town Park Ltd., claimed in a letter to City Administrator Michael Mallinoff that it would beat Park America's rate for running Hillman by about $100,000 a year.

In the letter, obtained by The Anne Arundel County Sun, Town Park also claims other parking companies would beat Park America's Hillman rate by as much as $100,000.

Theletter, however, did not refer to rates for other city parking lots.

The contract also covers the operation of the Calvert Street lot,where Gotts Garage is being built.

Park America president Jay Weitzman has sworn "on a stack of Bibles" that he did not attempt to influence the city into retaining his services. He said he was aware thecontract had run out, but assumed the city was satisfied with his services.

Alderman Carl Snowden, D-Ward 5, "finds it very hard to believe that nobody noticed" the contract had run out, given the amountof attention off-street parking in general and Gotts Garage in particular has received over the past 2 1/2 years.

Hopkins and City Administrator Michael Mallinoff said their investigations indicate that the contract was mishandled during the Callahan administration, charges Callahan dismisses as an attempt to deflect a two-year oversight in the Hopkins administration.

Callahan has accepted responsibilityfor his staff's failure to renew the contract between July and December 1989, when he left office.

City records show that Park Americafirst signed a renewable lease with the city in 1985.

In 1987, the city signed a contract to privately build and operate a parking garage on the Calvert Street lot with the Gotts Limited Partnership, an investment group headed by Quille-Crown Parking of Baltimore.

ParkAmerica signed a two-year contract to continue operating the city's garages in April 1987. The new contract did not contain an option to renew.

"We had originally done that because of the anticipated construction of Gotts Garage, knowing that we may want to bid them together," said city attorney Jonathan Hodgson.

"To paraphrase what everybody has told me: The Gotts Garage and the Hillman operation were going to be handed over to one operator, and that operator was to be Quille-Crown Parking," said Mallinoff, tying the $100,000-a-year administrative glitch to Callahan's deal with Quille-Crown.

Callahan called Mallinoff's suggestion "absurd." But it was not the first time the former mayor was accused of having a conflict of interests with the Gotts partnership.

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