Former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s staff was aware of major problems with the city’s parking-meter privatization deal in 2010 — a year and a half before the costly issues publicly surfaced, according to hundreds of pages of documents released Wednesday by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration.
The documents detail behind-the-scenes sparring between City Hall — under Daley and Emanuel — and Chicago Parking Meters LLC before Emanuel struck a deal last month with the meter company.
If approved next month by the City Council, that deal will see the city pay Chicago Parking Meters $63.8 million to settle disputes over how much the city has to pay it for when the city took meters out of service and for when drivers with disability-parking placards and license plates parked free at meters. The settlement also would create free parking in most neighborhoods on Sundays but establish longer meter hours.
As early as May 2010, in the second year of the 75-year meter-privatization contract, Daley aides questioned Chicago Parking Meters’ disability-parking reimbursement claims, the newly released records show. Over the next three years, the company demanded nearly $56 million for the free disability parking — an amount fueled in part by able-bodied drivers using relatives’ placards, or fake or stolen ones, to avoid paying escalating meter costs.
The hit on taxpayers didn’t become known until December 2011, seven months after Daley left office, when the Chicago Sun-Times reported the extent of the disability-parking abuse and that taxpayers would have to pay for it.
But Daley aides saw a storm brewing long before then, sending several letters to Chicago Parking Meters asserting that people who fraudulently use placards shouldn’t be part of the company’s reimbursement claims.