A firm hired to enforce parking rules in downtown Halifax and Dartmouth has fired two of its employees — including a supervisor — after city staff discovered they were writing hundreds of so-called phantom parking tickets.

A lawyer hired to represent Independent Security Services Atlantic — the company for which the two employees worked — said the workers weren't actually walking the walk looking for violations.

"Essentially these two individuals were taking time off from work and inventing tickets," said Tim Hill.

"The tickets they invented were not for Nova Scotia vehicles. They were for out-of-province vehicles so it took a little longer for that to come to light."

Hill said two employees were let go on Oct. 26 and the company has since confirmed the phantom tickets go back to the beginning of August. He said the company doesn't know exactly how many tickets were faked.

"It depends on how long it was going on," he said.

Tickets 'set off a red flag'

The Halifax Regional Municipality is investigating as well, and looking at tickets issued as far back as January. About 2,600 out-of-province tickets were issued between January and the end of October — representing about 1.3 per cent of the 200,000 total number of tickets in an average year.

A municipal employee was the one who found something was amiss.

"One of our staff saw a large number of parking tickets being inputted that were from out-of-province and that set off a red flag," said Brendan Elliott, a spokesperson for the city.

Tim Hill, Halifax parking tickets

Tim Hill, lawyer for Independent Security Services Atlantic, says the bogus tickets were written for out-of-province licence plates. (CBC)

"Generally we see a lot of compliance from tourists and people out-of-province, so it was a bit unusual to see that large a number of tickets being inputted as infractions. So that's when we brought in the Halifax Regional Police and an internal and external investigation was triggered."

As a general rule, the city does not issue a summons to out-of-province drivers who don't pay up — an honour that also makes it harder to detect phoney tickets.

Both Halifax and Independent Security Services Atlantic say parking enforcement officers don't have daily or weekly quotas for how many tickets they must issue, but historical information exists that helped the company with its audit.

"Individuals doing the parking enforcement job don't have a quota," said Hill. 

"But when you have a particular area over a period of time and you would expect there would be so many tickets and you go there and find there aren't as many tickets or they are for out-of-province vehicles, it's easy to spot."

Financial impact unknown

Independent Security Services Atlantic, owned by Lawrence Conrad, outbid Commissionaires Canada to win a five-year parking enforcement contract from Halifax worth $837,741. 

The company is subject to an annual performance review, which was ongoing prior to the malingering being exposed. 

As for how much money the city may have lost this year because of the former employees, Elliott said that estimate will take some time to figure out.

"From a revenue perspective that is something we are still looking at, in terms what might have been lost if everyone had been doing their jobs appropriately," said Elliott.

"It's too early in the investigation."

Elliott said there can be many reasons for changes to revenue from parking and from parking enforcement.

Three-quarters of the way through this fiscal year, numbers obtained by CBC News show revenue from parking enforcement is running about 60 per cent that of last year.