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Alhambra City Council Approves Extension of Police Towing Contract

Photo by David Muñoz.

Location

Alhambra , CA

The main item of business at the Alhambra City Council meeting Monday night involved the existing contract for police towing services and whether to implement the first of three automatic renewals for a one-year period.

The city entered into the contract with Pavon Enterprises Inc., which does business as Al’s Towing, on July 1, 2016. The contract was for four years with three automatic renewals for one-year periods unless the agreement is terminated by either party on 30 days notice. That initial four-year period concludes on June 30, 2020 thus the discussion on the one year extension period.

In placing the issue on the agenda Monday, city staff were looking for direction from the council with options including: 

A.) An extension of the current contract for the one-year period.

B. ) A request for proposals for an exclusive towing services contract.

C. ) A city towing franchise agreement, which would include payment of a fee to the city.

Alhambra Police Chief Timothy Vu offered the presentation to the council on the various options and noted that last year 517 vehicles were towed under this contract in the city. The contract also provides for 24 x 7 tow truck availability, clean up service as needed and a secure location to house cars involved in criminal investigations.

The manner in which City Hall has awarded towing contacts has been an issue among some in the city for several years now. When the contact was awarded to Al’s Towing in the fall of 2016, questions were raised about the legality of the agreement amid some concerns about possible conflict of interest on the part of past council members. Al’s Towing has held the city contract since 2009.

Mike Otto, an attorney for Al’s Towing, addressed the council Monday night and said that his client has “admirably performed the duties” outlined in the contract and that his client operates in a “clean, ethical manner.” He also noted that Alhambra has never terminated a contract “without cause,” a point that seemed to resonate later with several of the council members.

Michael Lawrence, a community activist and member of the city’s arts commission, urged the council to embrace the third option, the franchise agreement with fees that could go into the city coffers. He noted that Al’s Towing has been the beneficiary of no bid contracts for years and that it is a bad way for the city to do business.  Franchise fees in this case could range up to $50,00 a year.

“Why not, as in the case of the city trash contracts, open the process up for bids,” Lawrence asked. “How will it look to the public without open bids,” Lawrence asked.

Robert Ring, a lawyer for Henry’s Towing, which has been trying to get a share of the towing business in Alhambra since at least 2016, urged the city to make the process competitive by following the stipulations of the contract which says it can be ended with a 30 day notice from either side without cause.

But many on the City Council embraced the idea that since the city had entered into the contract it should not terminate without just cause.

In questioning from the council, Chief Vu was asked if Al’s Towing was performing satisfactorily and he responded, “Yes.”

Council member Jeffrey Maloney said he was generally open to the Request for Proposal process but “didn’t see anything that said that this contact should be cancelled.” He urged that the city let the contract run as written and take up the matter at the end of the term of the agreement.

Mayor Ross Maza, Council member Katherine Lee and Vice Mayor David Mejia agreed in principle on fulfilling the contract. Mejia mentioned having a “yearly evaluation of performance” on the contract.

Council member Adele Andrade-Stadler prefaced her remarks noting that Al’s Towing has been a “wonderful contributor to the community” in a variety of ways. But she noted that Henry’s Towing, a family-owned business based in Alhambra, is also part of the community and in terms of fairness and in an effort to bring in some money from franchise fees it should be opened up for bidding.

She offered a motion to support guidance on option C, but it found no second and didn’t come to a vote.

Maloney repeated his support for an RFP at the end of the contract and offered a motion urging option A, which was seconded by Mayor Maza. The motion passed on a 4-1 vote with only Andrade-Stadler voting no.

In public comment of the council, Linda Paquette, the lawyer for the Sikhs in the long-running dispute over the approval of permits from a new development on the site of the Alhambra Gurdwara, the finding of fraud by the commission in obtaining the permits and the commission’s tie vote on a resolution implementing the fraud vote. 

Paquette noted that the vote process on the fraud resolution, which came at the commission’s Feb. 11 meeting, was “procedurally improper” in that it should have been a simple implementation action enacting the 5-4 vote from Dec. 2, 2019 and not, in effect, a revote on the matter itself. 

In a letter to the council, she wrote that “this is a matter that should be returned again, by this body, to the Planning Commission, to complete the ‘unfinished business’ of approving the language of the resolution….”

Paquette also said they wrote a letter to the council on Feb. 19 within the ten day period for filing an official protest outlining her objections and was told by city officials that the official protest along with a fee of $940 had to be submitted by Feb. 24. Paquette said that due to illness she was not able to submit the official protest until Feb. 25 and for that reason it was rejected by the Community Development Department.

Since the matter was not on the agenda, the council took no action on Paquette’s request.  

Monday night’s consent agenda contained a number of items and passed unanimously. Items included a request for proposal for parking citation processing services and other related parking services; appropriation of $160,000 for additional parkway tree maintenance; the authorization of an RFP for operation of the Alhambra City Jail and reallocation and appropriation of funds for police department building repairs. Details on the consent agenda may be found here.

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2 thoughts on “Alhambra City Council Approves Extension of Police Towing Contract”

  1. Michael Lawrence

    Over the 4 years of the contract the city could pay as much as $200,000 in costs for Al Pavone Towing. Now instead of the vendor paying( franchise fees) for the city’s administration costs involved in towing, the $50,000/year comes out of our city budget. The current contract was unanimously approved by the 2016 council where every member had received thousands of dollars from Al Pavone Towing. This was an opportunity to clean up the Pay-to Play stain from that vote. A missed opportunity and a message to contractors that generous campaign donations will help you avoid open bids. Very disappointing that the council chose to keep the current contract and not open it for bids.

  2. City council’s discussion on towing contracts was severely lacking. From talk of franchise fees that can result in conflicts of interests to talk of no-bidding a contract that relinquishes potential returns to the community. It’s either pay-to-play or a lack of thought.

    While towing services are often necessary, towing and impound fees imposed on violators can be notoriously debilitating on what is an honest or minor mistake. Such fees can quickly add up, resulting in people losing their cars, and then their ability to get to work on time, and then their jobs, and ….

    City council: do you not realize that you were essentially discussing a hunting license where they prey is often people just trying to get by? Any discussion on franchise fees without mitigations to prevent them from serving as incentives to increase towing incidents is just crazy talk. Just like it is to no-bid a contract that should be competed and where a key scoring metric is lower costs imposed on violators. What world are you living in?

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