Whistle-blower Spurs Audit of DIA Parking

The office of Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher said it will conduct an audit to verify whether Denver International Airport parking-lot money may have been stolen by contract employees of a company that operates the lots.

On Monday, Channel 7 reported that a whistle-blower at the airport reported parking workers may have illegally pocketed about $4,000 in cash last Thanksgiving that they collected from parking patrons at DIA's Mount Elbert overflow lot.

The 8,700-space Mount Elbert lot, located south of DIA's cargo complex, is used sparingly, mostly around high-traffic holidays when DIA's other lots fill up.

All of DIA's other parking lots have "revenue controls" including ticket-dispensing machines, tollbooths and cameras that record license plates for payment verification, said airport spokesman Chuck Cannon.

Mount Elbert is a prepay lot in which travelers pay an attendant $5 a day - with cash, a check or a credit card - for the number of days they'll be leaving a vehicle. They then can retrieve their car and drive out without any contact with attendants.

Dorothy Harris, DIA's assistant deputy manager for land-side operations, said she got an e-mail from the whistle-blower on the Sunday after Thanksgiving about the possible theft of cash by parking workers.

Airport officials immediately changed procedures for logging in Mount Elbert customers that would lessen the possibility of theft, Harris said. A quick audit at the time found only a $50 discrepancy with what should have been collected over the holiday, she said.

The airport now is doing a full audit for November 2006 of Mount Elbert parking revenues.

For all of 2006, the overflow parking lot was open for 28 days and brought in $700,000 to the airport, Harris said.

In all, DIA collected $110.6 million in parking revenues from its 38,539 spaces last year.

Because of ongoing parking shortages at DIA, the airport plans to add ticketing machines, toll booths and cameras to Mount Elbert that will bring it in line with other parking lots at DIA, Harris said. The upgrade will cost about $4 million and is expected to be completed by November's holiday travel period.

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