Death by Parking - Chapter 8 - I Get Some Answers
To read previous chapters of “Death by Parking,” Log on to parkingtoday.com and click on “Death by Parking”
I picked up the tail as I left Cosner’s office. The meeting with my old lieutenant was cordial, and I learned very little. However, I now had some questions and I knew who would have the answers.
This is a cash business. Tens of thousands of dollars flow through that garage each month.
In the mean time I had to deal with the car that was following me. I hadn’t noticed it when I drove to Cosner’s, so it probably came from Cosner. Curiouser and curiouser.
I was driving a Pontiac V-8 convertible. I had plenty of power. But I felt this deserved a bit of finesse, rather than a sledge hammer. I wasn’t ready for them to know I was on to them.
I drove down Wilshire past the S and L project site on the Miracle Mile and turned right on LaBrea towards Hollywood. Up on the left was Pink’s. The famous hot dog stand was jammed, as usual. I turned left across traffic and into their parking lot. My tail was caught in traffic, and I had a minute to spare.
I drove through the parking lot, down the alley one block north to Willoughby, turned left, and then right on Formosa. I cruised up to Santa Monica, made a left and headed down to La Cienega. There was no question, my tail was still looking for me in the Pink’s parking lot.
I took a right on Pico and a few minutes later pulled into the Rancho Park Golf Course. It was late afternoon, and I was pretty sure the answers to my questions about C-Park and Cosner was sitting in the bar.
I had been introduced to DC McGuire during my first parking caper a few years ago. He was a retired parking expert from New York and spent his free time either on the golf course or drinking in the ‘19th hole.’ He was sitting alone in a booth, nursing what looked like a Bloody Mary. That seemed strange for an afternoon drink, but then DC was not a slave to liquid fashion.
I sat down next to him. He smiled hello and waved to the waitress. I ordered a scotch rocks and waited for DC to talk.
“Well, if it isn’t Paul Manning. What brings you to my office? It’s been, what, four years since we busted up that mob-based parking operation? They were laundering ill-gotten gains, if I remember correctly. What is it this time?” I laughed a bit at the “we” in his comment. But I was here for information, so I let him have that win.
The waitress brought my drink, and I motioned for her to bring DC a refill.
I told DC about C-Park and its relationship with a new project going up on Wilshire. I asked how a parking company could possibly afford to bid a job at basically no profit. He smiled and said “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
“OK, Hamlet, I’m game. Fill me in.”
“Paul, did Cosner mention that his contract was cost plus? That is, S and L would pay all his expenses, legitimate expenses, that is.”
“Let’s talk about those expenses. There are many costs that come up when running a garage. There are personnel costs, uniforms, cleaning, painting, security…and without strict auditing, no one knows just what these costs really are.
“For instance, there could be ghost employees on the payroll. Even four nonexistent staff at $100 a week would put an extra $20K in Cosner’s pocket. I’ll bet Cosner has a company that he owns that provides uniforms, another that cleans and pressure washes garages, and a third that supplies security. Who is to say that he goes out to bid on those services and gets the best price? I’m sure you will find that Cosner’s uniforms, cleaning crews, and security staff are gold plated.”
“Then there is double billing. Let’s say that he has a manager that runs S and L’s garage, and also supervises the one across the street. One would think that half the manager’s pay would be billed to each. Well, what if all the salary was billed to each. That’s a hefty sum.”
“But wouldn’t most of this be caught with a good audit,” I said.
“Ah, there’s the rub. Wow, I must have the Bard on the brain today. Very few owners actually read the monthly statements from operators who audit for them. And with the exception of ghost employees (to catch that you have to be there on payday and pass out the checks), most of the other charges can be justified with a lot of fast talking. ‘You want your staff and the garage to look its best, don’t you?’, ‘I hire only the most upmarket security staff. Any less could be a liability.’ ‘Your project, is after all, a class “A” building, you want a class “A” parking operation.’ And so on and so forth. But these are conversations that, frankly, are seldom if ever had.”
“And don’t even get me started on skimming. This is a cash business. Tens of thousands of dollars flow through that garage each month. What would it take to have a trusted manager wander through when the daily income is being counted and pick up a few hundred each day? Who would be the wiser? How would an ‘audit’ catch it? Hell, the building manager may be in on it. Who would suspect a brown paper bag ending up on his front door step each week? Who would know what was inside? Some tax-free walking around money might be attractive to a building manager to look the other way.”
“The owner, like Ray Stevens at S and L, is very far away from the day-to-day operations of the garage. He sees a large chunk of change going into his operating account each day and is happy. He has no idea what is really going on. He has to trust the operator. And in this case, it’s common knowledge, at least in the industry, that C-Park, well, that C-Park may not be completely on the up and up.”
“Why doesn’t someone turn them in?”
“To whom? Where’s the proof? Someone does a half-assed audit. Finds a few thousand missing. The operator says to the owner, ‘damn, I’m sorry, here’s a check’ and then ‘fires’ the manager. Of course, he probably really simply transfers the manager to another location. The operator looks golden to the owner and life goes on.
“Looks like I’m in the wrong business,” I said.
“Think of a parking operation as a bucket full of holes. The water running out of those holes is cash. If you are conscientious, you will fill some of the holes, but others will open up.”
“I was hired by S and L to determine if there were some bad actors screwing with their project site, not catch their parking operator with his hand in the till. Hell, the garages won’t open for another 18 months. How does all this relate to accidents on the job site.”
“I don’t know, Paul. But now you can see just how important this location is to C-Park. It will mean a lot of money to them. However, the construction problems may be tangentially related. Because of his relationship as a consultant Cosner can have access to the architects, city inspectors, electrical contractors, designers, and the rest. He has been in the know from the get-go. He has made suggestions that have altered the project one way or another. If he is ‘connected’ he can deal with unions, and other activity on the site.”
“Well, I do have someone on the inside looking at whether or not slowing down the project could hurt their rentals and help a competing building up the street. Obviously, I have a lot more to learn. I’ll just keep asking questions and see what pops up. Thanks for the help.”
DC nodded, and I paid his bar tab on the way out. That will certainly go on expenses.
Next, I would set an appointment with Bogie’s old flame, MaryAnn Leyman, the “L” in S and L. She seemed to know a lot about this business and besides, she was the one supplying the money.
To be continued…
Return to the summary page - click here