City official wrote rule he is accused of breaking

August 27, 2008|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,

The city transportation official under investigation for taking ownership of a motorboat sold at a city auction is the author of the regulation prohibiting members of his department from doing so.

Furthermore, the transportation executive, Deputy Director of Operations Anthony P. Wallnofer Jr., took possession of the boat shortly after it passed through the hands of a company that is lobbying Wallnofer to increase towing fees.

The city's inspector general opened an inquiry last week into whether a 15-foot Eagle motorboat sitting on a trailer in Wallnofer's backyard was acquired improperly. In a brief phone conversation Monday, Wallnorfer's wife referred to the boat as her husband's.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's editions misquoted Councilman Robert W. Curran. His quote should have referred to Anthony P. Wallnofer Jr. as a deputy director of transportation.
The Sun regrets the error.

That boat was sold at city auction for $1,900 July 30, said Sterling Clifford, a city spokesman.

Phone calls to Wallnofer's home and office were not returned yesterday. Transportation Director Alfred H. Foxx also did not return a call for comment.

City Councilman Robert W. Curran, who has been active on towing issues, defended Wallnofer as a knowledgeable resource to the council.

"I personally could ill afford to not have Tony Wallnofer as the director of transportation," he said yesterday.

The boat in Wallnofer's backyard has a 40-horsepower Mercury Force outboard engine and a center steering console.

In October, Wallnofer wrote a one-page memo to employees barring those with authority over the towing section from participating "directly or indirectly as a buyer or bidder in any vehicle auction."

It also says that employees cannot "knowingly purchase from any dealer a vehicle that the dealer had purchased at a vehicle auction conducted or managed by or for the Towing Section."

The Eagle was purchased at a city auction by Dick Bonnet, who heads Frankford Towing Inc., Clifford said. It is not unusual for towing companies to purchase items at city auctions. Bonnet did not return calls yesterday.

Frankford Towing is one of two industry representatives on the city's towing commission. Wallnofer was a commission member until earlier this year, Clifford said. Frankford is one of several parties that recently asked the city's Transportation Department to increase tow fees by $25, according to Rosita Sabrosso-Rennick of the Department of Transportation.

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