The unit of Xerox that may end-up managing Cincinnati's parking meters, Affiliated Computer Services, is among the largest government contractors in the nation, FOX19 has learned, doing everything from processing Medicaid payments to tracking down owners of unclaimed property for states. But our research shows ACS's practices on the East and West Coasts have led to major controversies.
The most pertinent for the Cincinnati community are audits conducted by the inspector general for the city of Washington, DC. In his reports from February 2007 and November 2012, he paints a picture of a company that mishandles tickets and charges DC nearly $9 million more than it would've cost had city leaders put out the contract for competitive bidding.
In a detailed e-mail to FOX19, Xerox spokesman Kevin Lightfoot refutes many of the allegations in the DC inspector general's reports. He says the parking audit was "wrong, based on misinformation and inaccurate assumptions." For instance, regarding improperly issued tickets, Lightfoot says the auditor thought codes on the meters meant one thing when they really meant another.
As for the money involved, Lightfoot says ACS/Xerox is bringing in 62% more revenue from parking meters than DC would be getting if it were an in-house operation. He points out in 1997, when ACS took over management of DC's parking meters, revenue was $5.5 million. "Today it's more than $25 million," Lighthouse said.
In Indiana, where ACS manages Medicaid and other public benefit programs, a government investigation wasn't so easy to knock down. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued ACS in federal court, accusing it and its staffing firm of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by "refusing to accommodate an employee's known disabilities and by terminating her assignment to ACS instead," the agency said in 2011. In the end, ACS and the staffing agency settled the suit. ACS agreed to pay $55,000 and entered into a three-year consent decree in which it promised to track disability-related issues in its workplaces and to "respond appropriately to requests for accommodation," the EEOC said.
In Oregon and Washington State, where ACS provides call centers for companies like Verizon Wireless, FOX19 discovered that at least two lawsuits have been filed after employees said they weren't paid for overtime that they literally worked every day. Employees say it takes them 15 minutes to fire-up their computers and get all of the software running. Then it takes another 10-15 minutes to shut everything down. But court documents say ACS didn't consider the call center employees to be "on the clock" unless they were logged into their computers. ACS/Xerox settled the suit in Oregon last August, according to The Oregonian newspaper, but denied violating any laws. Each employee affected in Oregon was to receive $50 to $260, the paper reported.
FOX19 learned today that the lawsuit in Seattle is still pending.
There is good news for ACS/Xerox, though, too. As FOX19 reported last month, Indianapolis has hired the company to manage its parking meters. And according to news accounts since then, Indy is raking in the dough. While the city netted just $339,000 from parking meters in 2010 (ACS didn't sign-on until November of that year), last year the city earned $2.5 million, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal.
However, some business owners here say they aren't as concerned about how much money ACS will end-up generating for Cincinnati as they are about the customers that might be driven away from their stores by changes to the city's parking rules.
The proposal passed its first hurdle in a city council committee meeting Monday afternoon.
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