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Records show Tri State got more spots than other valet parking companies

| Saturday, April 6, 2013, 12:08 a.m.
Traffic cones placed by valets working in Market Square block access to Graeme Street from Fifth Avenue.
Green Tree offices of Tri State Inc. and William Penn Parking owned by Robert Gigliotti of Banksville.
Green Tree-based Tri State Inc. and William Penn Parking are owned by Robert Gigliotti of Banksville.

A politically connected valet parking operator consistently got more reserved parking spots from Pittsburgh police than his competitors, according to records the Tribune-Review obtained through a Right to Know Law request.

Tri State Valet Inc. of Green Tree received 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 Le Mont, 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 each. The difference might seem minor, but in the valet parking business, volume is everything.

“I would just like it to be an even playing field,” said Stephen Lindsley, 23, a Robert Morris University student who runs a valet stand on Saturday nights at 19th and East Carson streets in the South Side.

The more curb space a company can reserve to stage cars as they arrive and depart in front of a busy nightspot, the higher the potential profit, operators say.

Giving more spaces to one company gives them an unfair advantage, Lindsley said.

Police have made changes since the Trib reported in the past week that former Chief Nate Harper granted extra spots to friend and Tri State owner Robert Gigliotti, 46, of Banksville, according to a former police official.

Gigliotti could not be reached.

His business partner, Robert S. Arrigo of Bethel Park, declined comment.

“Nothing to say, thanks,” Arrigo said.

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

Documents show Bryant re-issued 20 permits between March 29 and Wednesday to reflect the new four-spot limit. The change affects only Tri State, because it was the only company that claimed more than four spots.

“It's a fair deal,” said Bill Bodziak, former director of operations at Extravagante Valet, which counts Lidia's and Eleven restaurants in the Strip District among its clients. “Ninety percent of the time, four (parking spots) is all you need.”

Gigliotti had a knack for getting more, and his ties to politicians were well known. He was part of one of Mayor Luke 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's wife, Linda, is a city police detective.

Ravenstahl's office did not return a call for comment.

Scrutiny of Tri State began last week when members of the Market Square Merchants Association said they received complaints from visitors who said Tri State employees tried to force them to use the service, parked cars in on-street spaces instead of in a designated garage, and used a private lot without permission.

Bryant, who was not available to comment, this week transferred responsibility for enforcing valet parking permits to the Special Deployment Division, which handles traffic matters.

“(Pittsburgh police) will do its part in making sure the valet companies remain in compliance,” she said Tuesday.

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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