9 Investigates: Cannon's former company still making money

by: Scott Wickersham Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It's been nearly four months since former Charlotte Mayor Pat Cannon resigned.
Since then, he's pleaded guilty to corruption charges but his former company is still making big profits from taxpayers.
Channel 9 investigated and found E-Z Parking has contracts with city and state agencies.
One of those agencies is taking a second look at its contract asking whether it's giving E-Z Parking too much taxpayer money.
A city-owned parking lot near the NASCAR Hall of Fame is operated by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority -- a taxpayer-funded agency.
But for the past 12 years, it's been managed by E-Z Parking, which negotiated a profit-sharing deal with the city seven years ago.
Each month CRVA pays E-Z parking a $3,200 management and expense fee monthly.
It also pays wages and benefits for E-Z Parking employees, taxes, insurance, repairs and maintenance.
E-Z Parking also gets a bonus – 10 percent of all gross receipts which is over $7,500 a month.
In 2012, that deal earned E-Z Parking a $35,000 bonus and in 2013, it earned $40,000.
Emily Goff studies transportation issues for the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.
“These types of no bid contracts are certainly faster and easy for the city to engage in, but they raise a lot of questions,” Goff said.
She said this deal is so lucrative other companies probably would have jumped at the chance to manage the lot at a lower cost to taxpayers.
Not only is CRVA paying them for their service, but their wages and fees, benefits and then even a bonus.
But in 12 years, the CRVA never asked an outside company to make a better offer.
CRVA CEO Tom Murray defends the contract saying it gave E-Z Parking an incentive to increase parking revenues.
“At the end of the day, the parking lot has been more beneficial for taxpayers,” Murray said. “In the past, they would have just gotten a flat fee. Now we participate in the upside -- the revenue upside.”
Channel 9 looked into other contracts E-Z it has with government agencies.
Imaginon in uptown pays E-Z parking a flat fee of just $750 a month to operate its parking deck and it operates lots that the North Carolina Department of Transportation owns near the Bank of America Stadium.
E-Z Parking pays the city and state $72,000 a year to lease the lots with E-Z Parking keeping the profits from parking.
By law, the CRVA was not required to take competitive bids for managing the Caldwell Lot but Goff said they should have done it anyway.
“They should be seeking to pay due scrutiny to these types on contracts, to protect taxpayers and not waste spending,” Goff said.
Now the CRVA is giving the contract scrutiny.
Murray said the lot's revenue wasn't always this high it jumped when the NASCAR office tower opened next door.
So they're now taking a second look at whether this contract is the best deal for taxpayers and if the CRVA should manage the lot itself.
“They've done what we asked them to and then some which is good. But now we need to ask if it’s too good,” Murray said.
CRVA said it's been reviewing all its third-party contracts since before Pat Cannon was charged.
They can get out of their contract with E-Z Parking at any time with 30-day notice.
They're now considering taking over the parking operation themselves.