NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - More than two dozen Sewerage and Water Board employees the Office of Inspector General found to be using unauthorized handicap placards for premium parking will not be face disciplinary action or reprimands.
"Enforcing parking laws on public streets is not within the authority of the Sewerage & Water Board, and parking on public streets is conduct outside the employees' roles with the S&WB. Any discipline would be under the authority of those entities responsible for enforcing parking laws," S&WB spokesman Zachary Hudson said.
The OIG received a complaint in July 2017 that S&WB employees were parking for free on and around the agency's headquarters on St. Joseph Street by using handicapped parking placards in their personal vehicles. OIG investigators ran the license plates of 40 vehicles with handicapped placards around the St. Joseph Street building, and 26 S&WB employees were found to be using the placards to park for free in metered spots.
Louisiana State Police confirmed to the OIG that the employees were not authorized by the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles to display the handicapped placards in their vehicles.
Drivers using handicapped placards appropriately don't have to pay for the first three hours in a metered spot. The OIG found S&WB employees were using the parking spots for their entire eight-hour work shift.
Investigators with the OIG's office found that several of the vehicles included a parking meter receipt for a nickel's worth of time - or one minute.
The OIG estimates S&WB employees may have deprived the city of approximately $197,000 a year.
None of the vehicles was ticketed, according to the OIG.
"On March 1, 2018, the Parking Division assigned one of our more experienced supervisors to go out to the area and look specifically for issues that were referenced in the OIG report. Being able to identify faulty or fake handicap placards comes with experience; therefore, our more experienced Parking Enforcement Officers can more easily spot them, while those starting off might not be able to. That being said, the Parking Division will continue to make regular patrols through that area and will include more training on spotting fake handicap placards for all PEOs," stated Department of Public Works Director Dani Galloway in an emailed response.