SRJC to buy 37 new parking machines, board says

Erik Jorgensen

“SRJC’s Board of Trustees voted for the purchase of 37 new parking machines, costing $300,000 from VenTek International, at its Sept. 10 board meeting. Installation of the new “pay and display” machines starts after coordination with the vendor.

VenTek International, based in Petaluma, manufactured the System VI parking machines, which former SRJC District Police Officer Jeffrey Holzworth allegedly pilfered by erasing their transaction logs with his attached laptop. While the District Attorney says they can prove $400,000 in embezzled funds, Holzworth’s former co-workers suspect the total amount reaches $1 million.

“The problem was a function of the internal control system – that’s been fixed,” said Tim Bosma, SRJC’s former director of purchasing. VenTek International has not confirmed fixing the exploitable security hole in the System VI internal control systems.

Bosma said the new machines also fix other problems inherent in the old machines, from not accepting debit and credit cards, to not accepting wet bills on rainy days. SRJC District Police, Bosma said, simply didn’t enforce or issue parking citations on rainy days.

All old-fashioned parking meters will be replaced, and the sequencing of machine replacement may find new machines next to old ones, to “expedite the user experience,” Bosma said, adding students and visitors both benefit with no effect on semester parking pass holders.

When asked about the vote on new parking machines, SRJC Student Trustee Robert Edmonds said, “SRJC runs on a $6 million deficit annually, with over $2 million per year for our own private police department.”

Money collected from parking fees makes up part of the SRJC District Police’s budget for 13 sworn police officers, 12 unsworn Community Service officers, six dispatchers and between 15 to 30 cadet trainees per semester. Parking fees also go towards training for newly-hired police cadets.

Edmonds suggested considering the Sheriff or Santa Rosa Police for contracting all services, including parking. “I don’t know if students are best served by this approach,” he said.

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority installed more than 100 VenTek System VI parking machines in 2001, and “remain satisfied with the equipment, system and service provided by VenTek Transit,” said David Sausjord, VTA Fare Programs & Systems Manager. “In about 13 years of use, VTA has not experienced any losses from our TVMs [Ticket Vending Machines] similar to those suffered by SRJC,” Sausjord said.

VenTek Transit’s website says it “purchased all assets of VenTek International, Inc. to provide continued support for our transit customer’s fare collection system.” VenTek Transits’ president Sonny Hogg said, “That sentence ‘all of VenTek International’s assets’ is a little misleading… The parking assets were sold in 2002 and that company retained the VenTek International name. We purchased the remaining transit assets in 2004 and formed VenTek Transit.” Both companies remain headquartered in Petaluma.

Hogg said he helped develop the System VI as engineering manager, and said the separation of internal and external access and passwords becomes the responsibility of the end user. “There are lots of checks and balances but if one person has access to all the tools, all of the keys, is able to clear the memory and also runs the reports for the accounting office, the problem would be with the custom implementing the system,” Bogg said.

“The accounting office should be monitoring and comparing the revenue collected to the number of tickets sold,” Hogg said, adding that the number of tickets sold is a “non-resettable counter.” VenTek International’s website also advertises the Security feature of “Audit reports & Complete Transaction Log Histories.”

Hogg had no explanation whether Holzworth’s alleged embezzlement involved hacking his way into the transaction logs, or simply exploited an existing security hole in the “non-resettable counter.” Hogg said there could be a flaw in the system, “but I would have a closer look at how the system works, how the security features have been implemented and more importantly how the security features are controlled.”

VenTek International, contacted immediately after the Board of Trustees vote, only said, “VenTek cannot comment directly on aspects of a pending criminal case.