B eginning August 23rd and lasting for 12 days, what are now empty parking lots at the state fairgrounds will be packed with cars and people for the 2012 edition of the New York State Fair. For years, the fair had hired the Murbro Company of Syracuse to manage the massive parking challenge, but not this year.
L ast January, Murbro came under a cloud of suspicion when Mayor Stephanie Miner accused the company of allegedly pocketing potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue from two taxpayer owned garages. 7 months later, Murbro remains under investigation by the Syracuse Police Department. According to Miner's Chief of Staff, Bill Ryan, the case has not yet been turned over to the District Attorney. "The Syracuse Police Department is thoroughly investigating it...looking through a lot of documents." Ryan told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.
A fter Murbro was tossed from the city owned garages, The State Agriculture Department, which oversees the fair, reviewed the $800 thousand in fair parking revenue but according to a spokesperson, "found no irregularities with parking revenues."
The spokesperson says the fair's parking contract with Murbro expired this year, so the fair posted solicitations on line and directly contracted 12 parking companies.
Of the three companies that submitted proposals, the low bid and winner, at $49 thousand dollars, was the newly formed Syracuse Parking Services. It's a company some feel has ties to Murbro. Syracuse Parking Services is owned by David Gross, the former operations manager of Murbro. Gross denies any on-going connection to Murbro. "It is not Murbro under a different name...not at all." Gross maintains.
G ross says he left Murbro last December, a month before Mayor Miner accused the company of theft. As owner of Syracuse Parking Services, Gross says he now competes with Murbro and has taken away seven parking contracts along with 18 Murbro employees.
G ross says he knows nothing about the alleged thefts by Murbro. " I was not part of it at all...I was operations manager and had nothing to do with the finances." Gross says Murbro's finances were handled by others in a separate office.
He wants to distance himself from his former employer having been awarded a major contact with the State Fair. "I have to assume they did a pretty good job of vetting me based on where I gained my management experience."
The State Agriculture Department says the Gross and Syracuse Parking Services "were vetted by the Department's Fiscal Management Bureau, who concluded that they are a responsible vendor."
G ross says he will call on his experience with Murbro to oversee the parking at this year's state fair, but now with a parking company of his own.
Murbro has not responded to our request for comment.