The City of Shreveport quietly settled its million dollar claim for unpaid parking fees for a paltry sum of $80,000 in March of this year. To collect this sum, attorney fees in excess of $96,000 were paid through June of this year to a Colorado law firm. Additional attorney fees were paid to two Shreveport law firms – – one to investigate the parking lot mess and render a report to the City Council and the other to coordinate and monitor the Colorado firm and handle local litigation. The total fees paid for legal services exceeded the settlement by at least $45,000, if all the settlement moneys are paid.
The Shreveport Airport Authority (“SAA”) is an agency of the City of Shreveport; its Board members are appointed by the Mayor. The Board members and the mayor hire the director, subject to the Council approval.
In 2002 the SAA board members awarded Nationwide Parking Service of Shreveport, LLC (“Nationwide”), a Colorado based company, the contract to manage the airport’s parking lots and fee collection. The contract required payment of $76,000 per month. Nationwide started making late payments in mid year 2008 and then only partial payment in July 2009. The Airport Authority subsequently agreed to allow Nationwide to catch up in payments that were delinquent; none were made.
Nationwide filed a bankruptcy in February of 2010 in Colorado as it continued to operate the parking lots. The Shreveport City Council discovered the contract failure in March of 2010 – at that time Nationwide owed in excess of $700,000. After much legal maneuvering in the Colorado bankruptcy court, the City was allowed to terminate the contract with Nationwide. In July 2010 Nationwide was evicted and a new parking lot vender (Standard Parking Corporation) took over the SAA’s parking lots.
Shreveport City Attorney Terri Scott, advises that the $80,000 settlement agreement represents settlement of two matters. One was a lawsuit filed by the City against Nationwide Parking Services of Shreveport, LLC and various other affiliated entities (M.S. Clark Enterprises, Inc., d/b/a Nationwide Parking Services, Inc., Nationwide Parking Services of Louisiana, Inc.) and Morris S. Clark in Caddo District Court. The other was the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed by Dr. Clark in Colorado that was subsequently converted to a Chapter 7. After litigation in Caddo Parish, Clark entered into the settlement agreement. Scott advises that as of November 15, Dr. Clark had paid the SAA $20,000.
The Nationwide fiasco ultimately lead to the demise of Roy Miller as the Director of the Shreveport Airports. Miller was under fire from the Shreveport City Council once the Nationwide payment default became public. In November 2010 then pro tem Mayor Joyce Bowman fired Miller while Mayor Glover was out of town, stating that the “amount of money should not have been hidden from the Council”.
Seemingly there are lessons to be learned from this pitiful story of poor fiscal management, starting with the Airport Director and the members of the Airport Authority. A totally new cast of characters is currently in place and hopefully they will closely monitor all vendor contracts and promptly take action on any defaults. Additionally, someone (the Mayor, the City Council and/or the City Attorney) should make better evaluations in business litigation, which include prospects of success as well as recovery potential.
Be that as it may, the 2014 elections should bring substantial changes to Shreveport city hall and none too soon for most Shreveport taxpayers. One can expect many new faces in all key management positions, and one should not be surprised to see changes beyond just department heads, i.e. mid management employees and professionals. Overhauling City Hall to obtain more effective fiscal management should be a top priority for Shreveport’s next mayor.