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Tri State Valet put cars in rival's parking lot

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Saturday, March 30, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

A Green Tree valet service criticized for monopolizing public, on-street parking spaces in and around Market Square did not stop there.

Neighbors told the Tribune-Review that Tri State Valet Inc.'s employees parked some cars for free in a nearby lot on Fourth Avenue owned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh and operated by Kail's Parking, a competing parking management firm.

“I‘ve almost gotten run over. They come screaming around the corner,” said architect Rob Pfaffmann, who works next to the URA-owned lot sandwiched between the Benedum-Trees Building and the Investment Building.

“Nobody is against the valets,” he said. “They just need to drive safely, respect pedestrians and park where they're supposed to.”

Tri State owner Robert Gigliotti, 46, of Banksville declined an interview request through his attorney.

Gigi Saladna, a URA spokeswoman, said authority officials were not aware that Tri State was using the lot, which it leases to Kail. The URA paid $2.5 million to buy the lot on the edge of Market Square in 2003, according to Allegheny County online property records.

Dan Kail, co-owner of Kail's Parking, said Tri State did not pay to use the lot, which charges an evening rate of $5 per car.

“They didn't want to pay, so we ended up flushing them out of our lot, basically,” Kail said. “There was no animosity. They should just have to pay.”

Gigliotti is well-known among city Democratic politicians.

He regularly attends campaign fundraisers at the upscale Le Mont Restaurant in Mt. Washington, where his firm has provided valet services during events held by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and other politicians.

The Allegheny County Democratic Committee lists Gigliotti as a member in the city's 20th Ward, which includes Banksville.

Gigliotti also owns William Penn Parking Inc. The company has city licenses to operate six parking lots in the city with a combined total of more than 1,100 parking spots. Two lots — one on Third Avenue near Ross Street, Downtown, and another on Smallman Street in the Strip District — are owned by the URA.

Gigliotti is a friend of ousted city police Chief Nate Harper, and his wife, Linda, is a city police officer.

Lou Blauth, Gigliotti's attorney, has said his client received no special treatment from Harper in obtaining valet parking variances, permits to use on-street parking spaces as car pickup and drop-off locations in Market Square, at the Wyndham Grand Hotel, Morton's Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Le Mont and elsewhere.

Assistant Chief Maurita Bryant wrote in an email on Friday that Tri State should have access to fewer spots. She decided to reduce the number of on-street parking spaces Tri State can have in Market Square to four from six.

Market Square business owners and visitors complained to the Market Square Merchants Association that Tri State valets forced them to use the service, towed cars without posting “No Parking” signs and used on-street parking instead of a designated Pittsburgh Parking Authority garage that charged a $3 per-car fee.

Bryant did not say if the limitation applies to all valet parking services.

“Up to (4) spaces is a standard,” Bryant said. “A valet service can request additional spaces for special large events or circumstances, but up to four should be sufficient for drop-off and pickup service at most locations.”

It's not the first time a high-ranking police official raised questions about Tri State's parking variances.

When former Assistant Chief William Bochter signed valet parking variances for Tri State Valet, he wrote the initials “U.P.” on the forms.

The initials stood for “under protest,” said Warner Macklin III, a spokesman for Officer Tonya Montgomery-Ford, who worked for Bochter before he retired in May 2011 and then for Bryant until recently.

Montgomery-Ford declined to discuss the potential reasons behind Bochter's written protest.

“He was always an above-board person, and she had a lot of respect for Chief Bochter,” Macklin said.

Bochter, who took a job as a civilian adviser to the military, could not be reached.

Acting police Chief Regina McDonald suspended Montgomery-Ford and three civilian office workers last month amid the federal investigation that led to a five-count indictment against Harper.

Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or jboren@tribweb.com.

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