Valet parkers flout city's regulations
HOLIDAY TREATS SPORTS PATRIOTS ALL TOGETHER ON OFFENSE TODAY IN G THE APPEAL OF GINGERBREAD A WINE WISH LIST ª TY BURR ON ‘TINTIN’ abcde VOLUME 280 NUMBER 174 Suggested retail price $1.00 $1.50 outside of Metro Boston We d n e s day , D e c e m b e r 2 1 , 2 01 1 In the news Republicans reject cut in payroll tax Mehanna attempted to promote, join war against US, jury ﬁnds The federal government extended the state’s Medicaid waiver through mid-2014, a By Milton J. Valencia GLOBE STAFF Yet amid the gibes, people here struggle to name their own solutions for the country’s ﬁscal woes — perhaps a confusion reﬂecting the national soul, beﬁtting a bellwether town like Ashland that almost always picks the GOP primary winner. ‘‘It’s hard to know what to do,’’ said Dan Uhlman, a Republican and manager of Ashland Lumber Co. ‘‘I can com- Tarek Mehanna, the pharmacy college graduate from the quiet, afﬂuent suburb of Sudbury, was convicted yesterday of providing material support to Al Qaeda, in a swift and sweeping verdict that found he sought paramilitary training in Yemen so he could carry out jihad, or holy war, against US soldiers in Iraq. Mehanna was also convicted of using his knowledge of Arabic Tarek Mehanna, to translate and dis29, was convicted tribute documents on seven charges. promoting Al Qaeda’s ideology, to inspire others to violent jihad. The 29-year-old remained calm and poised as the verdict of guilty was announced repeatedly in US District Court in Boston, a total of seven convictions for counts of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, conspiring to kill in a foreign country, and of lying to authorities in a terrorism investigation. Once the jury was discharged, he yelled out, ‘‘I love you’’ to his crying mother, Souad, to his father, Ahmed, and his younger brother, Tamer, and he thanked dozens of supporters. He is slated to be sentenced on April 12 and faces life in prison. His father would only say: ‘‘I’m stunned, I ASHLAND, Page A8 MEHANNA, Page A15 key component to funding the health care law. B1. Some 10,000 women protested in Cairo following the beating of a female demonstrator, bringing an apology from the military rulers. A3. overpricing, the largest singlecase Medicaid fraud settlement in state history. B5. Iraq’s Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, angrily denied ordering assassinations and accused the Shi’ite-led government of persecution. A5. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 337 points, the best showing for stocks this month, on encouraging US and European economic signs. B8. Security forces killed at least 47 more people in Syria even as the government prepared to admit outside monitors. A6. Civic leaders honored the Cathedral High School football team, which lost a title on a much-debated penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. B1. Globe Santa hears the call of a ﬁnancially squeezed couple hoping to brighten their children’s Christmas. B4. Have a news tip? E-mail email@example.com or call 617-929-TIPS (8477). Other contact information, B2. POINT OF VIEW: NICHOLAS BURNS CAMPAIGN 2012 THE PULSE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE N.H. town sees no easy ﬁx for deﬁcit One in a series of stories taking a look at the 2012 Republican race through the eyes of residents of Ashland, a bellwether town in New Hampshire. By Sarah Schweitzer GLOBE STAFF ASHLAND, N.H. — When Mitt Romney descends here tonight for a spaghetti supper at the Dupuis-Cross Post 15 of the American Legion, he is likely to get Sleeping disorders plague ofﬁcers State Police fare better than most an earful about the ways of Washington. Budgets have been slashed in this working-class town, and painfully so. But down in Washington, Congress dithers. Yesterday came news of the continued stalemate over how to pay for extending payroll tax cuts. The much-hyped supercommittee proved to be not so super when it failed to come up with a grand bargain for cutting the deﬁcit. An Earth-size planet, at last Too hot for life, but a key step in hunt, astronomers say 1 The NASA Kepler mission searches for planets circling other stars, by analyzing more than 150,000 stars near the Cygnus and Lyra constellations. Star Planet Classiﬁed Business B5-9 Bus. opport. B7 Deaths B10-12 Com. r. estate B7 Editorials A18 Legal notices B9 Lottery B2 g Weather B13 TV/Radio, Comics, Crossword, © Globe Newspaper Co. Sudoku, KenKen, Movies, Horoscope For breaking news, updated stories, and more, visit our web site: BostonGlobe.com 51334 While sleep disorders plague many Americans, police ofﬁcers may fare worse than others, according to a new Brigham and Women’s Hospital study that found 40 percent have a chronic sleep problem, which in most cases had not been diagnosed. The national study published yesterday found that 26 percent of the ofﬁcers reported that they fall asleep driving at least once a month because of excessive drowsiness. Massachusetts State Police ofﬁcers, however, had markedly lower rates of sleep problems such as obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, and shift work sleepiness — most likely, the researchers said, because of a mandatory ﬁtness test they must pass every two years to hold onto their jobs. Police ofﬁcers with sleep disorders were more than twice as likely to have depression, anxiety, and job burnout than those without, and they were three times more likely to fall asleep at the wheel, according to the study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers took into account other factors that could cause psychological problems like having a second job, alcohol consumption, and total number SLEEP, Page A17 Planet orbit Photometry GLOBE STAFF Inside 4 Kim Jong Un headed a solemn procession yesterday to the cofﬁn of his father, Kim Jong Il, an indication that a smooth leadership transition has begun in secretive North Korea. The death of the longtime ruler raised worries of a power struggle in a nation with a nuclear program, but no signs of unrest have been seen. A4. By Deborah Kotz ‘‘I supported the initial invasion in 2003 while serving as US ambassador to NATO, but have long since been convinced that any good from it was far outweighed by the sacriﬁces of our soldiers and the signiﬁcant damage to our international credibility.’’ A19. 947725 REUTERS Brightness Merck & Co. will pay $24 million to resolve charges of Full Report: Page B13 Sudbury man guilty of terror charges Anointed heir leads North Korea mourning House Republicans turned down a Senate bill to extend a payroll tax cut and jobless beneﬁts beyond year’s end. Speaker John A. Boehner called for talks on a longer-term measure, but President Obama and Senate Democrats insisted that the House pass the two-month bill. A2. 0 Today: Cloudy, rain. High 51-56. Low 42-47. Tomorrow: Partly sunny. High 50-55. Low 35-40. High Tide: 7:25 a.m. 8:05 p.m. Sunrise: 7:10 a.m. Sunset: 4:14 p.m. * Features THIS FALL IS ABOUT UP 2 Kepler measures the size and orbit of distant planets by watching for a tell-tale dimming in a star’s brightness as a planet crosses in front of the star. Time 3 In early December, NASA announced the discovery of Kepler-22b, a Kepler-22b planet 2.4 times the size of Earth that orbits a star in a habitable zone that could support liquid water, and perhaps life. Kepler-20e Venus Earth GLOBE STAFF A team led by Harvard astronomers announced yesterday a major milestone in the long-running hunt for worlds capable of supporting life elsewhere in the cosmos: the detection of a planet the size of Earth. The rocky planet, and another they found that is a bit smaller than Earth, are the smallest ever discovered orbiting another star. They provide the powerful proof astronomers have been waiting for that it is possible — using a spacebased telescope — to detect planets that ﬁt the proﬁle that has successfully spawned life in our own solar system. This story was written by Globe correspondents Colin A. Young, Gail Waterhouse, Sarah Moomaw, and Walter V. Robinson. Astronomers are still far from the ultimate dream of ﬁnding an inhabited world; these socalled exoplanets sit scorchingly close to their sun and would be too hot for life, at least as we know it. But just weeks ago, scientists reported the discovery of a planet that is bigger than Earth, but otherwise just right — sitting squarely in the ‘‘Goldilocks zone’’ that is not too hot and not too cold for liquid water. Together, the discoveries signal that that their search techniques are ready to pinpoint the right planets — if they are out there to be found. ‘‘It is not just a milestone; it was the goal we were all headed for — and now, we turn toward PLANET, Page A17 VALET PARKING, Page A12 Kepler-20f two rocky planets, one Earth-sized and one slightly smaller, but they are too hot to support life. By Carolyn Y. Johnson Trafﬁc impeded; punishment light In 2008, Petit Robert was in the cross hairs of Patricia A. Malone, the director of the city’s Ofﬁce of Consumer Affairs and Licensing. The South End bistro had three recent citations for violating Boston’s exacting valet parking rules, the most recent for double-parking cars and tying up trafﬁc along Columbus Avenue. And restaurant managers, she wrote, did not attend her hearing. In a scalding decision, Malone declared the violations unacceptable, the failure to appear troubling, the evidence that Petit Robert was mending its ways nonexistent. A ‘‘serious sanction’’ was being imposed: Petit Robert, where patrons go for ﬁne dining, was barred from providing entertainment for two nights, which meant that the 30-inch television over its tiny bar and the background music were turned off. When the City of Boston acts on valet parking violations, though it seldom does, the ofﬁcial ﬂogging is most often done 4 Yesterday, NASA announced the discoveries of Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, SOURCE: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech Valet parkers ﬂout city’s regulations JAVIER ZARRACINA/GLOBE STAFF T A12 City & Region H E B O S T O N G L O B E WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2011 PARKING WITH IMPUNITY Valet violations punished lightly, if at all º VALET PARKING Continued from Page A1 with feathers: That blank television screen is among the most serious penalties the city has imposed. This may explain why reporters observed wholesale violations outside restaurants in the city’s busiest restaurant districts between September and November. On some weekend nights along Tremont Street in the South End and Boylston Street in the Back Bay, trafﬁc often moves at a crawl, thanks to long queues of empty, double-parked cars outside busy restaurants. Valet parkers, the Globe found, pay little heed to the requirement that arriving cars be quickly moved to garages or lots. They routinely ignore regulations that forbid double parking and taking up metered spaces. Some grab resident parking spots and even handicapped parking to squirrel away cars belonging to diners. Such violations make it even more difﬁcult for local residents to negotiate already congested streets and park their cars. And the companies ignore the rules with relative impunity: Indeed, when a City Valet employee working at Umbria on Franklin Street threatened to kill a trafﬁc enforcement ofﬁcer in 2007, the city listed the incident as ‘‘disrespectful behavior.’’ And the sanction for Umbria? ‘‘Probation’’ for six months, though there is no record city ofﬁcials ever checked up on the restaurant. In response to the Globe’s ﬁndings, Boston’s transportation commissioner, Thomas J. Tinlin, said recently that he has put together teams of police ofﬁcers and trafﬁc enforcement ofﬁcers to target valet scofﬂaws during peak dinner hours. The crackdown began Dec. 15. To be sure, playing by the rules in congested neighborhoods like the South End is no easy feat. Some restaurants use parking lots that are blocks away, and valet parkers sprint back and forth to park and retrieve cars. Inevitably, the crush of arriving cars at peak hours means some cars will be temporarily double-parked, although the Globe observed that the rules were ignored at many restaurants even when business was light. For city ofﬁcials, policing valet parking is an unpalatable and unwelcome task. The restaurant industry is important to the city’s vibrancy and economy and a favorite of Mayor Thomas M. Menino. And valet parking is a critical lure for suburban diners. The importance of the restaurant business, said Tinlin, argues for the use of a scalpel, not a chainsaw. ‘‘ We’re looking to change behavior at the curb,’’ he said. ‘‘We do not want to have a bunch of shuttered storefronts.’’ In addition, regulators face a quandary when they mete out sanctions: The restaurant holds the valet license and therefore faces the consequences. Yet it is the valet companies they hire that break the rules. Then there is the enforcement muddle. Three agencies have at least some jurisdiction over valet parking, but no one embraces it. Tinlin’s Transportation Department created the regulations, oversees licensing, and has the power to suspend or revoke the licenses. But Daniel R. Nuzzo, the Transportation Department ofﬁcial who oversees valet licensing, said that when he is alerted to violations, he prefers to call restaurant owners and scold them politely and privately, which means there are no records. That leaves Malone’s ofﬁce and the Boston Licensing Board. Malone’s power is limited to regulating behavior at establishments that hold entertainment licenses, which are important mainly to nightclubs. Shutting off the television at Petit Robert was about all she could do. The Licensing Board oversees behavior by businesses with liquor licenses. When it comes to double-parked cars and the like, the Licensing Board has long issued only warnings for valet infractions and forwarded second offenses for action to the Transportation Department. For the department, that translates into a handful of ‘‘behave your- SARAH MOOMAW FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE Cars double-parked at Chilton Club in the Back Bay. Three agencies have jurisdiction over valets, but no one embraces it. self’’ letters from Nuzzo over the years, according to its records. Nuzzo said the city’s regulations ‘‘are a lot more stringent than they need to be.’’ Sometimes both Malone’s ofﬁce and the Licensing Board will hold hearings on the same violation, because they have overlapping responsibilities and, Malone said, have a long history of not talking to one another. The Transportation Department oversees 136 valet licenses, renewable annually. About 100 of those are for restaurants — and some nightclubs — the vast majority of which are in the Back Bay, South End, downtown, and North End. Almost all of the rest are issued to hotels, large condominium buildings, and hospitals. One reason for the widespread violations observed by the Globe: Few of the city’s trafﬁc enforcement ofﬁcers work the dinner hour or weekends. And the dozen or so police citations written every year that lead to hearings are mostly handed out during the middle of the week. That is about to change. Tinlin said in an interview that his ofﬁce has not provided adequate oversight of valet parking. ‘‘We had left enforcement to the Boston Police Department,’’ Tinlin said. ‘‘This needs to be enforced and regulated by us. We’re looking to take some immediate steps, and that includes monitoring valet parking and holding people accountable.’’ While responding to questions raised by the Globe, Tinlin said he found another problem, that a division within his department has been inappropriately awarding long-running temporary valet permits to some restaurants, without the formal review that is required. He said he has ordered a stop to that. One of those lapses, Tinlin said, was especially embarrassing. In April 2008, after both police and ﬁre ofﬁcials raised concerns, Nuzzo declined to renew an annual valet parking permit for the Gypsy Bar on Boylston Street. For the next two years, Boston Valet, the bar’s parking contractor, continued its valet service at the site by getting regular temporary valet permits from another department within Tinlin’s agency, the Engineering Division. Tinlin said neither he nor Nuzzo was aware of the backdoor permitting in their own agency. Matt Cahill — the director of the Boston Finance Commission, a state-appointed watchdog agency — said that it is important for Menino to order an audit of the valet permitting process and its revenues to rule out wrongdoing. The department’s oversight is further limited because neither of the other two agencies notiﬁes the Transportation Department in advance of hearings on valet citations, according to Tinlin. What’s more, the department does not have records of many hearings conducted by Malone. City ofﬁcials insisted that political inﬂuence has played no role in the tepid enforcement of valet regulations. A Globe analy- GEORGE RIZER/GLOBE STAFF ‘We’re looking to change behavior at the curb.’ THOMAS J. TINLIN Transportation commissioner WENDY MAEDA/GLOBE STAFF BILL BRETT FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE The rules ‘are a lot more stringent’ than needed. Two boards have a history of not talking to each other. DANIEL R. NUZZO Overseeer of valet licensing PATRICIA A. MALONE Ofﬁce of Consumer Affairs and Licensing sis of campaign ﬁnance records found that the principals of many of the establishments and of the valet ﬁrms have donated tens of thousands of dollars to Menino since 2005. In separate interviews, both Tinlin and Nuzzo asserted that even occasional enforcement actions, coupled with verbal warnings, have prompted increased compliance by the valet companies that contract to do the parking for restaurants and other businesses. But that is apparently not the case at many restaurants. Take, for instance, Mistral Restaurant on Columbus Avenue, which was sanctioned in 2009 and 2010 for its valets’ disregard for the regulations. Over a two-hour period on a Friday evening last month, Ultimate Parking employees at Mistral left patrons’ cars in the four curbside valet spots for extended periods. The city’s regulations require that cars be moved to off-street parking facilities within 10 minutes, so that other cars do not come along and double-park. On three different dates this fall, reporters found that curbside spaces at 23 restaurants — and several hotels, too — were being regularly used for extended parking. That can save the valet companies the cost of offstreet parking, make life easier for valets, and boost tips from appreciative patrons when they leave. Over a two-hour period on Friday, Nov. 4, the valets at Mistral left two or three cars doubleparked for long periods of time. At one point, a Lexus sport utility vehicle arrived, the driver exited, hugged the valet, and went into the restaurant. Minutes later, the valet did a U-turn and parked the Lexus at a meter across the street. The garage used by Mistral valets is less than 500 feet away. Josh Lemay is the director of Operations for Ultimate Parking, which has contracts with about 70 percent of the licensed restaurants in Boston. In an interview, Lemay said his supervisors are on the street nightly to make sure its valets are following the rules, which, he said, they do. If a valet at Mistral were caught commandeering a meter, he said, he would be ﬁred. That is precisely what Andrea McDonough of Concord said Ultimate told her last year after its valet at Mistral stashed her new BMW behind the restaurant, where it was broken into. ‘‘The valet company apologized and said the guy was ﬁred, and a week later I saw him working there,’’ McDonough said in an interview. ‘‘They just told me what they thought I wanted to hear.’’ Michael J. Mc Cormack, whose law ﬁrm represents Ultimate, said the company opted instead for a one-week suspension because the valet had worked for Ultimate for 12 years and, McCormack said, was juggling two jobs to support his family. Sometimes, the doubleparking results from understaffing by valet companies. On narrow Appleton Street in the South End on Nov. 4, it was barely possible for a car, much less a ﬁretruck, to squeeze past the row of seven double-parked cars in front of two restaurants, 28 Degrees and Noche. Both restaurants share curbside valet space, where two other cars were illegally parked. One of the two harried valet parkers said that Ultimate Parking had not assigned enough employees that evening. Then, instead of moving one of the double-parked cars, the valet crossed the street to move a Chevrolet Corvette he had left in a handicapped parking space. Lemay said the problem occurred because one of the two restaurants had a large group arrive for a function at the same time. He said Ultimate sent in extra help later that evening to clear up the backlog. At Joe’s American Bar and Grill on Newbury Street, the curbside spaces were all taken, in violation of the rules, and an SUV was double-parked. Eventually, one of the valets parked the SUV in a metered spot. Minutes later, two people got into their car at another metered space and drove off, leaving the two valets with another chance to break the rules. ‘‘It’s like Christmas,’’ one valet said. The violations are not conﬁned to restaurants. Several hotels that have valet licenses, including the Ritz Carlton and the Mandarin Oriental, often keep cars at curbside spaces for hours. Many of the restaurants and their valet operators, who pay little heed to the regulations, are major contributors to Menino. For example, Umbria owner Frank DePasquale and his wife have donated $3,500 to the mayor since 2005. Ofﬁcers of Ultimate Valet, whose market share has grown so large that it now parks a half million cars a year in the city and employs as many as 800 workers, have also been regular contributors. Andrew Tuchler, the company’s founder, and his wife have donated $3,500. Other employees have given at least $4,750 more since 2005. Ofﬁcers and employees at Jillian’s, a club near Fenway Park, have contributed at least $8,000 to Menino since 2005. The corporation that owns Jillian’s also owns the Gypsy Bar, which was able to secure temporary valet licenses after its permanent one was revoked. Jillian’s appears to have escaped sanctions after its valet parkers were cited with three violations in 2009 and 2010. Malone, the licensing ofﬁcial, said in an interview that her policy is to issue a warning for a ﬁrst offense, and suspend the entertainment license for one night for a second offense and for two nights for a third. But Jillian’s received only warnings, instead of a loss of entertainment privileges. Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Menino, said the ﬁrst two violations were heard by the Boston Licensing Board. When the third violation came before Malone last year, Malone knew of the prior two transgressions. But since she did not have the paperwork, Joyce said, ‘‘technically she had to treat it as a ﬁrst offense.’’ Joyce said campaign donations ‘‘have nothing to do with the decision-making process’’ in any city department. At Petit Robert, the owners still remember having to shut off the small television and unplug the iPod that provides background music. But it was, they said, an odd sanction. Loic Le Garrec, the co-owner of the restaurant, laughed as he recalled the tongue-in-cheek instructions he gave his staff not to entertain the diners. ‘‘For two nights, we couldn’t laugh with the customers,’’ he said. But he was quick to add: ‘‘We were not trying to make fun of the city’s decision. We were just trying to look on the bright side.’’ In addition to Young, Waterhouse, and Moomaw, this article was reported by Jenna Duncan, Alli Knothe, and Katherine Landergan for a seminar in investigative reporting at Northeastern University. It was overseen by journalism professor Walter V. Robinson, who is a former editor of the Globe Spotlight Team. Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Conﬁdential messages can be left at 617-929-3334.