Thursday, November 13, 2008

An All-Too-Typical Towing Scandal In Salinas, California Photo

The situation in Salinas, California is so familiar, so common that I actually spent quite some time searching my own blog to make sure I hadn't already written something. But, nope, it's yet another juicy California towing scandal, and the details are in this article, click here.

Yes, it's all so sweetly, achingly familiar. (And here's another version of the same story, from another publication.) Ah, yes, here we have the...

...outraged owner of a rough-and-tumble towing company, accused of contract violations, but he's saying it's ALL A CONSPIRACY by authorities in cahoots with another towing company. Accusations are made by the unpopular towing entity, and the mess ends up in court. The accusations are detailed, seemingly plausible, but what is ultimately proven? When pigs throw mud at each other, at the end of the day they're still all pigs wallowing in mud. And the whole towing industry, all over America, is rife with lucrative corruption and dangerously unregulated.

Why does this story in Salinas, California remind me SO MUCH of the situation in Springfield, Massachusetts with the Towing Alliance? Honestly, it's like watching a sci-fi movie about good guys fighting an "evil empire" and realizing, gee, haven't I seen this same plot before with different actors?

Ugly Highlights, If You Wanna Call 'Em That

Here are some of the more noteworthy and disturbing elements of this particular scandal, according to both the articles.

* The owners of Century Towing, Angel Garcia, Senior and Junior, and damage claims are estimated at a quart of a million dollars.

* Nine companies, including Century, paid the city as much as $18,000 a year to be in a rotation for vehicles the police wanted towed. The companies are called in alphabetical order. However, it appears there was favoritism showed to a company owned by a police officer who also--wouldn't you know it?--was involved in supervising towing. These accusations hold water because the officer has, in fact, been HARSHLY disciplined by the police department for conflicts of interest.

* "Outspoken" individuals who questioned conflicts of interest supposedly faced retaliation.

* But does any of this change the fact there were contractual violations by Century Towing? As of today, November 13, the Salinas Police Department STILL wants to kick Century off the rotation for using an unapproved driver and not providing workman's compensation insurance, among other things.

The Solution: Technology And Transparency

The old-fashioned "alphabetical clip board" isn't good enough. There should be a system for car owners, police, insurance companies, towing companies, etc., to track these vehicles. If there is favoritism being shown to one company, it will become apparent soon enough, because everybody will have easy access to the same data.

Yup, I've said it before. Plenty of times. But the thing's always the same sort of towing scandal themes, and the same solution applies over and over. I hope Salinas starts to "get it," because a quarter of a million dollars is a lot of money in this tough economy. Well, any kind of economy.

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