More than two dozen Sewerage & Water Board employees have been using fake or unauthorized handicap tags to bilk parking meters near the utility’s main office on St. Joseph Street, according to a report drafted following an investigation by the New Orleans Office of Inspector General.
The report, sent to the city’s Department of Public Works last November, summarizes a two-day investigation probing an “allegation” that “able-bodied” utility employees had been using handicap tags to park their personal vehicles on metered spaces near the utility’s main office at 625 St. Joseph St. The handicap tags allow drivers to park up to three hours for free in downtown metered spaces, which otherwise would cost $3 per hour.
Office of Inspector General investigators ran the registrations of 40 vehicles displaying handicap tags near the St. Joseph Street main office and found 37 of those vehicles were registered to Sewerage & Water Board employees. Of those 37 employees, investigators found just 11 – less than a third – were authorized to have handicap tags, which are distributed by Louisiana State Police, according to the report.
In all, 26 Sewerage & Water Board employees parked with handicap tags that either belonged to a relative, belonged to someone else or were “invalid or unreadable.”
Additionally, investigators spotted 31 vehicles with handicap tags that also displayed parking receipts, ostensibly to cover meter fees beyond the maximum three hours of free time, but that those vehicles had receipts showing “usually a nickel” had been paid into the meter. While five cents would cover “only one minute of parking,” investigators found some of those vehicles were parked that way for entire work shifts. None were ticketed.
All together, the inspector general’s report estimated the invalid handicap tags and expired meter receipts that weren’t ticketed could cost the city around $197,000 a year in lost parking meter revenue.