New ordinance won’t fix Detroit’s troubled towing system
Darren A. Nichols
After the recent corruption scandal, the city is overtaking its towing processes. But a group representing Detroit’s largest towing companies says the ordinance under discussion won’t rid the city of towing from corruption.
I have read a draft of this proposed regulation and the Detroit Towing Association is spot on.
Most people in Detroit don’t care how towing works in town or who’s in charge. What they are concerned about is another cloud of corruption, and that is what any towing system overhaul has to deal with.
Instead, it seems like the government is using corruption as a convenient scapegoat to take control of another municipal operation and make superficial changes that don’t really address the issues. Even the city’s leading attorney admits the ordinance that Detroit City Council is discussing cannot eradicate the corruption process, and Detroit towing companies are concerned about the impact on their small businesses.
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The police-approved towing system runs in rotation. Companies on the list should get a chance next time. But it doesn’t always work that way – companies are constantly trying to prioritize pickups and sometimes fill the pockets of city or police officers in exchange for preferential treatment.
Towing corruption has been an issue in Detroit for decades.
In 2011, the city stopped bidding on towing contracts and instead allowed the towers to operate with a five-year permit from the Board of Police Commissioners. These permits expire at the end of this month.
After the last towing corruption scandal in 2018, the Detroit Police Department got into the towing business itself, purchasing six trucks. After Towers objected, the department agreed to limit itself to 25% of their towing work.
The most recent iteration came after FBI agents on Jan.
Last week we learned what federal agencies are looking for: shredded documents, financial papers, and towing records.
The agents wrote in the warrant that they were looking for evidence related to possible crimes, including bribery, extortion and wire fraud, along with campaign funding records and documents related to nonprofit charities.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan called for quick changes and asked Police Chief James White to work out a plan. But the Council of Regulations he is discussing was created long before this ordeal began.
The administration has stated that the relocation of the procurement procedure to the city’s procurement and procurement office will become more transparent.
Also part of the revision: Strengthening a towing commission that has not met for about a decade, restoring competitive tenders for contracts and removing the Board of Police Commissioners from overseeing the process. The board decided earlier this month to surrender its towing authority to the administration and city council.
That’s part of what has dampened Detroit Towing Association President Barry Foster.
The Board of Police Commissioners, Foster said, is where police-authorized towers bring their problems up.
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“Our association is definitely disappointed that the board is giving up its powers to the administration,” said Foster, whose group tows around 30,000 cars, buses, trucks and planes for the police every year. “We worked hand in hand with the police on any problem that arose with the towing.”
The towing commission proposed in the draft regulation could serve that role, but Foster would like a board position to be filled by someone in the industry.
“If there is a problem, now where can we complain under the new procedure?” Foster says. “We’re still looking forward to working with the city whatever their plans and we won’t go in and tell the police or the mayor what to do, but we have 607 years together with all the towers.” together. We just wanted to give our input and express our concerns. “
Foster has determined that none of its members has ever been involved in any corruption plan.
Foster and his members are frustrated that they were unable to speak at the Police Department meeting last week or the City Council meeting on Tuesday.
The group just wanted to record its concern that smaller companies would be shaken fairly in the bidding process.
The current system is not inherently corrupt. But transplantation was seen as the normal course of the towing business, and that’s something that can’t be fixed by prescription.
“It is not possible to effectively legislate against corruption by addressing it in an ordinance because there are already laws against it and criminal penalties in place,” said Lawrence Garcia, Corporation Counsel. “The best way to prevent corruption is to have solid regulation, namely: supported by a process of checks and balances, oversight and accountability. That’s what we do. “
These changes need to come sooner rather than later. National headlines are already brewing and, linked to the United Auto Workers corruption case, some wonder whether these current cases will thwart Detroit’s comeback.
This is what Duggan and other city guides have tried to avoid since ex-Mayor Kawme Kilpatrick was convicted in 2013. And it’s the last thing Detroiters want.
Foster makes a good point: he told me that if an officer is corrupt you don’t get rid of all the police. The same should apply to towing, he says.
But the bigger problem here is that Detroiters need the reassurance that there is no corruption in town hall.
That’s not all on Duggan. We must elect officials with integrity, and our elected officials must employ people with the same moral compass.
Executives need to understand that any bad seed, any misuse of taxpayers’s money is a waste. Detroit has run out of space.
This process is more than a simple change in the law. What Detroiters and other stakeholders want is an assurance that the towing problems of the past are buried.
A repetition of the last corruption scandal in the town hall is not an option.
Darren A. Nichols is a columnist for Free Press. He can be reached on Twitter at [email protected]: @ dnick12.