PPA, Fenerty blasted in state audit accusing agency of cheating Philly schools

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released two scathing audits looking into the authority's operations and policies.

Listen 2:09
Former Philadelphia Parking Authority director Vince Fenerty is described as tyrant in a scathing report from Pennsylvania's auditor general.

Former Philadelphia Parking Authority director Vince Fenerty is described as tyrant in a scathing report from Pennsylvania's auditor general. (Tom MacDonald/WHYY)

The former director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority ran the agency like a “tyrant” without any oversight, according to a scathing report from Pennsylvania’s auditor general that has prompted calls for the entire PPA board to resign and a review to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.

“It is clear from my audits that the PPA board of directors was like an absentee landlord when it came to running the actual operations of the parking authority,” said Auditor General Eugene DiPasquale. That gave former executive director Vince Fenerty “complete control of every aspect of its operations.”

Fenerty was a “tyrant” who micromanaged the authority — including overseeing hires to the state-chartered agency that controls parking in the city, DiPasquale said.

“He personally selected who was interviewed, conducted the interviews, and made all the hiring decisions,” according to the report. “He also created an undocumented process of bringing forward the need to fill or create positions within the PPA. There was also lack of transparency regarding entry level positions.”

Fenerty, who resigned in September 2016 amid two sexual harassment scandals, was paid $223,000 a year to run the PPA. He receives an annual pension of $158,628.

Fenerty has said he’s been advised not to talk about the allegations.

The auditor general’s finding of “gross mismanagement, a complete lack of oversight by the board, ongoing unchecked sexual harassment, and a loss of tens of millions of dollars that were meant to go to the school district … is not acceptable for the residents of our city,” said city Controller-elect Rebecca Rhynhart.

She has called for the authority return to local control.

“Furthermore, due to the magnitude of mismanagement under the current board’s watch, I believe all members of the PPA board of directors should resign,” she said. “I plan to ensure that real change occurs at the parking authority when I assume office in January.”

DiPasquale, who also has called for the city to resume control of the authority, told City Council members Thursday his audit shows the School District of Philadelphia missed out on $77.9 million over five years due to mismanagement at the Philadelphia Parking Authority. The authority is required by law to send a portion of its net revenues from on-street parking fines and fees to the city’s cash-strapped school district.

“That could have been 1,323 teachers,” DiPasquale said.

“When you read this report you all should be outraged,” said Emanuel Bussey during the City Council meeting.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro may share a bit of that outrage.

“My team and I have met with the auditor general’s office at different points during its audit, and I commend Auditor General DePasquale for putting the Philadelphia Parking Authority under the scrutiny it deserves and making recommendations for reform,” Shapiro said. “Now that these audits are complete, my office will carefully review these serious allegations of misconduct with all speed and diligence to determine if any criminal violations occurred.”

A statement from PPA Chairman Joseph Ashdale said the agency has made improvements over the past 15 months.

“The Philadelphia Parking Authority has adopted and implemented many measures to improve the governance and efficiency of the agency. Those actions include 80 percent of the auditor general’s [117] recommendations, and many more.

“We will continue to strengthen this organization and make certain that we provide the highest level of service to Philadelphia’s residents, businesses and tourists,” Ashdale said.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal