August 17 2018,  Revere

Councillors, mayor disagree on handling of missing meter money

By Tara Vocino

 

An unspecified amount in missing meter money led to a heated City Council meeting on Monday night.

Approximately two weeks ago, it was reported that about $90,000 in meter revenue may have been stolen, but the figure may be higher, according to Mayor Brian Arrigo.

“We need to make sure that when our residents pay cash, it’s going to where it’s supposed to go,” Arrigo said. “I became aware of these issues when I took office. Going back to the initial audit, it was clear that we had cash management policies that are nonexistent, and it’s my job to fix these problems.”

Arrigo went on to say that it’s not a $90,000 problem, but rather hundreds of thousands that should have been collected over the last decade, and it’s difficult for independent auditors to determine exactly how much money is missing.

Two parking department employees are on unpaid administrative leave as a result. City councillors suggested at the meeting’s outset for their names not to be released, pending the investigation.

Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo, who lost to Arrigo in the last election and is expected to run again to gain back the corner office, got in a heated debate with the mayor about why there were three different parking clerks over three years, the timeline of when Arrigo found out, and about whether the money was collected.

“I’m wondering why this hasn’t been referred to the FBI,” Rizzo said. “It doesn’t make sense to be up here July 23, and the next day to have Revere police officers on Broadway looking at surveillance footage. I think you can understand why I have a problem trying to wrap my head around this issue.”

Revere Police Det. Lt. Maria Lavita said she couldn’t say whether the parking clerk, who was let go, is the subject of this investigation.

Ward 6 Councillor Charles Patch suggested that suspending the employees without pay implies that there’s a crime, and he, along with other councillors, argued that they should be getting paid until the case is closed.

Arrigo responded that if those two employees are going to work under his administration, they’re going to work hard and with integrity. He referenced two employees who are on unpaid leave at the Boston Public Library, using the same process and criteria.

“They’re not to be paid by the citizens of Revere if they’re not doing their job,” Arrigo replied. “I hope the council understands that we had employees that are ineffective and inefficient, and I took the proper action to address these issues.”

When asked, Revere Police would not comment on the investigation at this stage, but did say the Attorney General’s Office and a prosecutor are involved. “The investigation is ongoing. I don’t want to sugarcoat it, and we will see where the investigation takes us,” Revere Police Chief James Guido said. “Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.”

Arrigo said he didn’t have any control over the [meter] keys, which are kept in a file cabinet with no in/out log maintained. “The keys of the locks were never changed,” Arrigo said. “Some meters are at least 25 years old. The internal controls have changed since then and have been lacking for decades.”

The audit was conducted by an outside accounting firm and began about three years ago. Officials didn’t release when the audit will be complete.

Councillor-at-Large George Rotondo made a motion that the mayor request the state auditor to audit each and every department within City Hall and to review all cash policies.

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