City addresses parking overcharges |

City addresses parking overcharges

Abigail EagyeAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN City officials believe they’ve isolated a problem with overcharges at Aspen’s Rio Grande parking garage. As a result, they’ve implemented new procedures they say will help them find and correct the mistakes before they’re charged to people’s credit cards.The city learned about the overcharges last fall, when Steve Pope, the general manager of Colorado Mountain News Media (The Aspen Times’ parent company), reported several overcharges on his credit card.After investigation by both the parking department and Parkeon, the company that provides the software for parking garage transactions, the city concluded that a software glitch was to blame.City Finance Director Paul Menter said Parkeon has delivered a software “patch” to correct the problem, although the first patch apparently didn’t take, and the company is sending another.Since Pope reported the problem, the parking department has begun daily reviews of transactions and has caught several more overcharges. Those problems were found and fixed before making it on to anyone’s credit card statements, Menter said.The overcharges relating to the software glitch consistently come in round multiples, from two to 16, and according to parking operations manager Blake Fitch, Pope is not the only person with more than one overcharge.”As a result of this, [city officials] met with the parking department for procedural improvements in how they manage cash and document deposits,” Menter said.As a “secondary benefit” of the investigation, Menter said, the new controls should help the parking department catch other errors as well when reconciling daily transactions.Although Menter saw the upside of Pope’s reported problems – identifying a problem and finding ways to improve procedures at the parking garage – he was not happy with Pope’s accusation that someone in the parking department was deliberately overcharging him, particularly since Pope is a “corporate officer” for the company that owns The Aspen Times, which reported his statements after the initial investigation.”It’s a serious accusation both against the city and against the employees that work down there,” Menter said. “He’s drawing conclusions without having complete information.”Menter said Pope’s complaint was legitimate, but he is concerned about the reputations of the four men who work in the parking department, even though Pope didn’t name anyone.”These people live in the community here,” he said. “These are people with families and lives, too.”After the initial investigation last fall, Pope wasn’t convinced the problem was a software glitch, but last week he said he accepted the city’s explanation after learning about the software patches and the steps taken to catch the errors.”My intent was to get it investigated,” he said.He acknowledged Menter’s concerns about employees at the parking garage but said he stands by his statements at the time.”I understand his point, but my position would have been exactly the same if I worked outside the company,” he said. “At the end of the day, we didn’t name any employees. We just talked about an issue.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is