By Ryan Kath

BOSTON (CBS) – One of the state’s top watchdogs says the problem of handicap parking placard abuse is rampant, especially in downtown Boston.

In a report released on Wednesday, Inspector General Glenn Cunha highlighted the issue and focused on a parking meter exemption that allows drivers with placards to park for free all day.

Cunha told WBZ that parking costs can provide an incentive for some workers to misuse the placards.

It is a problem the I-Team witnessed in the busy Brigham Circle area of Boston. On five occasions, Mark Donlan’s vehicle was parked at a meter while he worked his shift at a nearby construction site.

Mark Donlan parked with handicap placard (WBZ-TV)

Mark Donlan parked with handicap placard (WBZ-TV)

A handicap placard hanging in his mirror did not belong to him. In fact, records show the placard holder has been deceased since October 2013.

When confronted about the placard abuse, Donlan would not answer any questions.

The I-Team also saw workers near the same construction site get into vehicles with placards hanging in the mirrors after finishing their shifts.

“The abuse hasn’t let up,” said Cunha, who also issued a report on the topic in 2013.

Investigators with the IG’s office observed 77 drivers regularly use a placard belonging to someone else while parking at a meter all day. The placards belonged to friends, relatives and dead people.

READ: Full Report

Drivers will risk a $500 fine and the possible 30-day suspension of their driver’s license to save thousands of dollars in parking fees, Cunha said. At the same time, the report estimated the problem costs the City of Boston millions of dollars in lost parking revenue.

In a December report, the I-Team revealed the widespread abuse and showed the aggressive enforcement measures used in communities like Waltham and Fall River.

Cunha said another factor that contributes to the abuse is the ease in which people can obtain placards.

“There has to be better scrutiny on these applications to ensure the people who are receiving placards actually qualify,” he said.

A major recommendation of the report is implementing a two-tier system at parking meters. That scenario allows people whose disability prevents them from reaching a meter or kiosk to continue parking for free.

However, all other placard holders would have to pay. Cunha said the approach is successfully used in other states. He also said local disability advocates have expressed support for the measure.

Ryan Kath can be reached at rkath@cbs.com. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.

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