COS Parking Enterprise Part 1: The Director

Photo Credit: SpringsTaxpayers

Colorado Springs has a new Parking Enterprise Director, Scott Lee. Lee made the media rounds in mid-June, and his comments that we need to pay more for parking has us scratching our heads.

Lee says that Colorado Springs needs to catch up to big cities and pay more for downtown parking.

Who decides what amount is “enough?” Should we pay more for something because people in another city are paying more for that same service? That just isn’t a solid argument. Is an increase in downtown Colorado Springs parking rates really about generating revenue for the Parking Enterprise and using citizens’ money to fund projects? It certainly looks that way to us.

SpringsTaxpayers recently filed a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request that exposed some interesting details. We’ll be sharing additional information from that CORA over the coming weeks.

First, let’s look at the new Director. Who is Scott Lee? Here’s a look at his job application, part of what we asked for in our CORA request. The taxpayers of Colorado Springs are paying Mr. Lee pay him $115,000 a year, and spent an additional $10,000 to reimburse him for relocation expenses to move him here from California, where he had a similar job.

When Lee was hired for the job last year, the Gazette quoted the Colorado Springs Mayor’s Chief of Staff Jeff Greene as saying, “Scott Lee brings an attractive skill set as we look at ways to maximize the performance of our parking enterprise,” and “As downtown continues to grow due to a strong economy and catalytic projects such as the U.S. Olympic Museum, Scott brings the expertise and experience necessary to lead the City through this growth while also having the entrepreneurial mindset that will keep us ahead of the curve.” It certainly appears that Mr. Greene hired Mr. Lee for his revenue-generating expertise.

In a partial email from the CORA, Mr. Lee sought out advice from City Attorneys about how to get out of current parking garage contracts with downtown businesses, including Plaza of the Rockies tenants, and Kinder Morgan. Lee and Greene were trying to be creative and find a way out of the lower contract parking prices by saying the lower prices create a hardship on the City.  Lee said in the email, “One could argue that this (the hardship clause) is applicable to maintain the necessary financial health of the parking enterprise…” Think about that. The City has contracts with downtown employers for parking for their employees, and Lee and Green are trying to figure out how to break the contacts to jack up the prices. Some hardship.

When we asked for the full email, we were told that they had inadvertently released the partial email to us. Oops!

The City has now refused to release the email in its entirety, citing attorney/client privilege. Legal precedence (C.R.S. 24-6-402 (4)(b)) says they should now release it, but the City is not budging. Our only recourse is to take them to court to compel the release of the balance of the document. With our limited resources at SpringsTaxpayers, we’re considering our options.

The partially released email is here. Are you also wondering what they don’t want us to see? After all, this is a contract that impacts taxpayer money on both the revenue and the expense sides. Also, the companies impacted by potential fee increases must be curious about the rest of the conversation, as it is designed to cost them more money.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll share more with you from what was returned as a result of the CORA. We have no doubt that hiring a new Parking Enterprise Director is about creating bigger revenue streams for the City of Colorado Springs.

If you’d like to support our efforts in holding local government accountable, donate here. We’ll continue looking out for you, Colorado Springs.

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