Wednesday, June 21, 2017

More than $49K missing from Gainesville Regional Airport (KGNV)



Gainesville police detectives are trying to learn what happened to nearly $50,000 missing from the Gainesville Regional Airport’s paid-parking system.

Cash deposits totaling $49,090 went missing from the airport’s HUB parking system over a period of about 10 months, from April 2016 until February, said Matt Lyons, the airport’s chief financial officer and business manager.

Gainesville Police spokesman Ben Tobias said police are investigating, but no arrests have been made.

Lyons and Allan Penksa, the airport’s chief executive officer, suspect the missing money was stolen. Technological and software glitches with the parking system have been ruled out, they said.

About 30 technology-issue-related inquiries to the HUB Parking Technology support staff were made during the time airport officials believe the money went missing, according to emails acquired by The Sun through a public records request, but the glitches could not have added up to the almost $50,000 in missing cash, Penksa said.

For every transaction, the system records the amount of cash taken in, much like a cash register, Penksa said.

He said times when airport employees had to override the system to open the gate for exiting patrons because of system glitches or when parking tickets were unreadable would not cause the system to register the occurrences as transactions. The problem appears to be connected only to instances when customers used cash, Penksa said.

Airport officials collected those parking tickets from that time frame and matched them up with the transactions, and everything matched up — except for the money.

“These are complete periods of times that transactions were made and the cash transactions were processed, but the money was not deposited,” Penksa said.

The parking system, Lyons said, tracks how much money should be in the “safe,” which is a small black metal box where the cash is collected and stored in the machine. Lyons said when the safe is opened and a “pull” is made, the system records the time and date, but zeroes out the safe, which allowed the missing cash to go unnoticed until records were reviewed.

Lyons said the airport collects about $120,000 to $150,000 in parking revenue each month. With revenue varying month to month and with most of the revenue coming from credit card payments, a difference of a few thousand dollars each month didn’t seem unusual.

The parking system’s cash-deposit logs show a pattern of discrepancies between what was pulled from the safe and what ended up with the airport’s accountant.

On 39 dates from mid-April 2016 to mid-February 2017, 78 pulls were made, one from each of the airport’s two cash-eligible machines, ranging in amounts from about $35 to $1,600. Those deposits never made it to the accountant, records show.

The first missing pull was on April 14, 2016. A pull was made for $338 from one machine and $47 was taken from the other.

Less than a week later, pulls were made for $239 and $108 from the machines.

Months later, on June 27, the biggest pulls were made, totaling $2,362, with $1,600 pulled from one machine and $702 from the other.

The final pull occurred on Feb. 13: $388 and $666. Gone.

“We’ve never had anything like this happen before,” Penksa said.

The airport’s paid-parking system generates about $1.5 million a year in revenue, which goes to pay employees and operating expenses, Lyons said.

When it was discovered by an accountant in February and airport employees were informed, the phantom pulls stopped, leaving Penksa convinced that it was not a software issue, but a human one.

There were three keys. One key to open the ticket machine, another to pull out the safe box and one to open the safe box. No employee was supposed to have more than one of the keys, Penksa said.

However, Penksa believes someone got the keys required to open up the parking machine to make the money pulls.

While there was not a written policy in place at the time, Penksa said since May, the airport has had a two-page document detailing how new cash handlers should make deposits.

Acquiring and making deposits from the system still takes multiple keys and separation of those who have access to the keys. It takes at least two people to log and witness deposits and to count and agree on the amount of the deposit, Penksa said.

He said he’s confident the written policy will keep similar situations from happening again.

While he would only answer questions by email, Gainesville-Alachua County Regional Airport Authority Chairman Kinnon Thomas said he believes Penksa and airport staff handled the newly installed parking system machine “as well as expected.” He noted, however, as chair of the board, he cannot speak for the other board members.

He added in hindsight, more could have been done.

“We should have written as well as verbal instructions on the proper money-collection procedures,” Thomas wrote.

Whether police will ever be able to determine how the money went missing remains to be seen.

The airport has a surveillance camera in the area of the parking system machines, but the video data can only be stored for a certain amount of time, and airport officials believe any footage of the suspected theft has now been overwritten. Penksa said he’s working to increase the video data storage limit.

Penksa said he has given police deposit slips, airport attendance and security system records, credit card and cash transaction information, and the details of the safe pulls during the months when money went missing.

Now, he’s waiting for an answer.

“We’re hopeful that there will be a resolution.”

http://www.gainesville.com

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