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Department of Transportation stops 'Gold Card' program after audit

May 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A little known program to dismiss parking tickets in Los Angeles has been abruptly dropped. L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel brought it to the public's attention Thursday in her audit.

The "Gold Card" looks like a credit card but it has special perks. It allowed the Mayor's Office and City Council members access to a special office in the Department of Transportation (DOT) that could reduce citations or cancel them all together.

"The public should know that there is no special treatment," said Greuel.

The city controller's audit found that about 1,000 citations had been dismissed over a two-year period with virtually no justification and no paper trail.

Officials we spoke with Friday said they didn't even know the program existed. They said staff members may have used it to help constituents but never to fix tickets.

"The word 'Gold Card' sounds like some special treatment for council members and the mayor," said L.A. City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl. "I've never even used it, I'll tell you that."

"'Gold Card' or 'Platinum Card' sends the wrong message," said L.A. City Councilmember Dennis Zine. "If it was 'Customer Service' or 'Customer Complaint' it would have been well received."

"I've said they should close this program now," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "I did not know of its existence."

On Friday, the mayor today ordered the L.A. DOT to discontinue the Gold Card program immediately. His office also challenged the city controller saying that Greuel's staff used the service while she was a councilmember.

"In fact she had voted for it, and in fact she was chair of transportation when this contract was negotiated," said Villaraigosa. "There is documentation that she knew of this program before the audit."

"I did not know about a Gold Card Desk," said Greuel. "For instances that we need to look at, it should be transparent for everybody."

Greuel said that this audit has obviously touched a nerve at City Hall.

"The fact that there were 1,000 tickets canceled in the last two years from this Gold card Desk," said Greuel. "There is no documentation, at least in 90 percent, that demonstrates why they canceled these tickets. That's the issue we should be talking about. They are deflecting it on so many other levels."

Greuel said that it was her recommendation in the audit to discontinue the program, and she is happy that the mayor did so. Villaraigosa requested a complete top-to-bottom review of the DOT.


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