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Pittsburgh police turn over parking papers

| Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Pittsburgh police gave federal investigators documents regarding temporary parking permits on Tuesday as City Council tightened restrictions on valet parking operators.

Acting police Chief Regina McDonald said in an email that a subpoena arrived last week seeking all parking variances granted to public or private companies since 2008 and all “related correspondences.”

“I can't say how many subpoenas were received. Any requests that have been made, we've complied with,” city Solicitor Dan Regan said.

McDonald and Regan declined to comment further.

Two men delivered about six boxes of records on a dolly to the federal grand jury room on Tuesday. Several boxes were labeled “variances,” including one that displayed the year 2009. The men left moments later with someone in the room telling them they needed to take the boxes to the fourth floor. The U.S. Attorney's Office takes up the entire fourth floor of the courthouse.

It's unclear why investigators want to examine the parking records, but the Tribune-Review reported last month that former police Chief Nate Harper approved some valet parking variances and gave extra parking spaces to Green Tree-based Tri State Valet Inc., owned by Harper's friend Robert Gigliotti, a politically connected businessman. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl forced Harper to retire Feb. 20 amid a federal investigation into a secret police credit union account.

The Trib reported that Tri State tried to force Market Square customers to use its service, parked cars in on-street spaces instead of in a designated garage and used a private lot without permission.

Gigliotti, whose wife, Linda, is a city police officer, was part of one of Ravenstahl's major re-election campaign fundraiser committees in 2011. The Allegheny County Democratic Committee lists Gigliotti as a member in the city's 20th Ward.

Gigliotti could not be reached for comment.

“I know that the FBI was going to do a thorough job and the grand jury is looking into anything that might be an issue,” Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said. “Councilman (R. Daniel) Lavelle put forward legislation as a way to address the concerns he had.”

City council approved an ordinance on Tuesday requiring all valet parking companies to obtain licenses to operate in Pittsburgh.

Lavelle sponsored the legislation as a result of complaints about Tri State's aggressive valet parking tactics in Market Square.

Under the ordinance, valet operators will be required to apply each year for a license at a cost of $100 per location. There is no fee now.

Operators will be prohibited from parking cars on streets, permitted a maximum of four spaces for drop-off and delivery and required to provide proof of insurance. The ordinance requires a secure lot for storing vehicles and city-issued signs clearly designating valet stands and parking spots.

Tri State obtained permits to reserve six to 12 on-street parking spots at the doorsteps of all but one of its nine city clients, most of them upscale restaurants such as LeMont, Capital Grille and Morton's Steakhouse.

None of Tri State's six competitors, which operate at 11 locations that cater to bar and restaurant patrons, received permits to use more than four parking spots. Scrutiny of Tri State began with complaints from customers about aggressive tactics in Market Square.

Assistant police Chief Maurita Bryant made changes in March that limited all valet parking permit-holders to four parking spots, with exceptions for large events.

Staff writers Bob Bauder, Brian Bowling and Bobby Kerlik contributed to this report. Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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