Towing companies' appeal rejected

Police suspend 2 firms in program, saying they didn't meet requirements

January 16, 2003|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

Baltimore police have turned down the appeals filed by two major towing firms and reinstated suspensions barring the companies from the lucrative city towing program for 14 days each.

Maj. Marcus Brown said yesterday that evidence from hearings held last week substantiated the charges against Berman's Automotive and Frankford Towing, both based in Baltimore. The firms had been charged late last year with failing to meet minimum staffing and equipment requirements at garage sites officially designated by the city.

At the hearing last week, police officials testified that during a series of spot-checks late last year there were no trucks and no personnel at a total of six sites. Berman's was charged with maintaining so-called ghost garage sites at 934 Washington Blvd. and 2230 Reisterstown Road. Frankford was hit with the same violations for sites at 6700 Quad Ave., 4519 Harford Road and 2101 Fleet St.

Under the department orders, the companies will be barred from the city program for 14 days. Brown said the firms will be given credit for portions of the suspensions that were served before they were put on hold because of the appeals.

Under the city program, tow trucks are dispatched from designated city sites to accidents and crime scenes. Police say it is important to maintain trucks and personnel at the designated sites to ensure a prompt response and minimize public safety risks.

Once towed, motorists pay towing fees of $80 to $89 plus storage and other charges to retrieve their vehicles

At the hearing last week, representatives of the two companies contended that the penalties were too severe and that the rules were antiquated.

Arthur Frank, the attorney for Berman's, also questioned whether police had given the company adequate notice before meting out the penalties.

Richard Berman, who runs the family business with his brother Charles, said the suspensions would cost his company up to $40,000 and force the layoffs of 10 tow truck drivers.

Frank did not respond yesterday to a request for comment on the denial of the appeal.

Paula Protani, a Frankford official, said yesterday that she was awaiting official word from the city on the decision.

"We've been in the program for 20 years, and we've never been suspended before. We run a good show. I don't know what happens next," Protani said.

Protani said she did not know whether the suspension would affect Frankford's participation in another city towing program under which cars are towed from major arteries during rush hour.

An investigation by The Sun in 1997 showed that Frankford and Berman's routinely dispatched their trucks from sites not on the city list.

Police also had moved to suspend a third firm from the program, but Tim's Towing decided to drop out of the program altogether because it recently relocated to Baltimore County.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.