MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — “If somebody has criminal intent whether it’s in the private tow industry or within the Mobile Police Department employees or impound employees. We certainly will present that evidence,” said Public Safety Director James Barber.
A surprising twist in the midst of serious allegations of price gouging against several towing companies across the city. Mobile’s Public Safety Director has revealed the police department itself is also under investigation.
Surprising for sure, after the Mobile Police Department, discovered they may be in trouble too, in this towing mess. Right now, five companies are already suspended. Barber tells News 5, it feels like there’s a roadblock at every turn and now they just want to get to the bottom of it.
“There’s a lot of allegations, finger-pointing back and forth,” said Barber.
A sticky situation, Is now leading to a much bigger issue, attacking a city ordinance.
“There were a lot of practices that were not being reflected in the ordinance and the fees were below standard because it is a 12-year-old ordinance. So, what started out as a housekeeping project to update the ordinance and reflect our current practices and fees, turned into a criminal investigation,” said Barber.
Nearly one month ago, Mobile police served search warrants at 18 different locations targeting five companies, suspending them from the towing rotation.
“What started out as one company turned out to be five companies, eight companies, which turned out to involve the police impound lot. so, as we look at the industry itself, it keeps evolving,” said Barber.
Allegations against the Mobile Police impound include charging fees that were not authorized.
Barber said, “we did find charge sheet schedules. it did have fees such as winching and dolly that are not authorized by the current ordinance, which is a 2007 ordinance.”
News 5’s Amber Grigley reached out to the companies on suspension about this new turn in the investigation. They did not want to go on camera, but Chad Fountain, owner of A Plus Auto said he just wants to get back to work and hopes this prompts an ordinance revision to prevent this from happening again.
Barber, agrees. He said, “that is a decision for the district attorney. But at the end of this, you will see a revision of the ordinance to provide more oversight regulations so that you and I won’t have this same conversation four to five years from now.”
The companies are close to the end of their suspension and should have an update by Monday for what’s ahead.