by Alex Lloyd Gross
No one likes to get a parking ticket. You leave your car on the street for five minutes past the meter time and you have a ticket. The most hated agency in the city has been also called very efficient. Too efficient. It seems that complaints about revenue and tickets, as well as hiring policies have caught the eye of Rebecca Rhynhart, the City Controller. Her office did an audit and found that the Philadelphia Parking Authority has too many employees. They came to this conclusion by looking at other cities and how they handle parking enforcement.
The city has 15406 paid parking spaces and 651 employees. Portland Oregon by contrast has 111 employees for 14,000 paid parking spaces. The revenue generated by Portland is about 1 Million Dollars less than Philadelphia. ($36 million vs $37 million). Management at the PPA is overpaid substantially. overpaid. In fact at $210,000 the PPA’s Executive Director is paid substantially more than other cities surveyed, such as Pittsburgh, Portland and Boston.for example. The audit also stated that while the substantial pay is given to executives, the people actually doing the work, the ticket writers are vastly underpaid. They are the ones taking the abuse, and generating the money. This audit finds them to be paid 4.8 percent less than the Executive Director. in other cities, that rate is 2.6 percent.
Auditors also followed up on the Auditor General’s finding that salary increases were given imprudently. Since the Auditor General’s report, the PPA hired an outside consulting firm to review job descriptions and salary levels for non-represented employees. However, the firm recommended new pay scales for non-represented employees that were not comparable with other public sector entities such as the City of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. While the new pay scales recommended no salary increases for the two lowest pay grades, the consultant proposed new pay scales that recommended maintaining or increasing salary levels for higher pay grade positions. Despite the Auditor General’s recommendations for the PPA to evaluate its policies and limit salary increases, the PPA adopted the new pay scales in September 2019. In addition to the new pay scales, the PPA also granted a three percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for most higher-level non-represented employees in 2019.
Want to get a job with the PPA? It pays to know someone. A random sample of 107 employees found that of the 107 employees sampled, found that 25 employees, or 23 percent, either held political positions themselves or resided with someone who did. Specifically, 21 employees were or lived with a committee person, two were ward leaders, and two were both committee persons and ward leaders. Our review did not extend to employees who might otherwise have an influential political connection, such as close friends or extended family members. While the review does not address how or why so many politically connected people work at the PPA or whether there were additional familial or personal connections, it does appear that political connections have a positive correlation to employment at the authority.
As the PPA does not seek funding from either the Commonwealth or the City, it is not required to obtain budget approval from governmental entities at either level and is, therefore, not subject to the oversight, transparency, or accountability that either budgetary process would provide. Consequently, no government body questions the PPA’s hiring practices, the large size of its workforce, or the organization’s salary structure. These responsibilities fall to the PPA’s Board of Directors, which is the only entity in a position to offer such oversight to the PPA. However, our audit found that the Board’s oversight responsibilities are not clearly defined in its bylaws.
Recommendations that were listed by the audit include
- Refraining from automatically granting salary increases and COLAs to management employees;
- Creating a leaner, more efficient workforce through workforce attrition and closely evaluating the need for each position;
- Publicly advertising open positions and filling them using a merit-based system that considers the candidates’ qualifications and experience; and
- Engaging in robust public discourse of the annual budget to increase transparency and scrutiny of expenses.