An attorney for a wrecker service owner claims the city failed to provide due process when suspending his client’s company from participating in an on-call capacity with the Mobile Police Department for 30 days.
The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday morning to deny the appeal of the suspension. The MPD keeps a list of wrecker services to call on rotation to help remove vehicles damaged or disabled because of crashes. The city maintains that in order to remain on the list, a business must follow the rules laid out in an ordinance regulating the service.
Chase Dearman, an attorney for owner Wilbert Casher, told councilors during an administrative appeal of that suspension that his client has not been criminally charged and doesn’t know why the business has been punished by the city. Dearman called the action taken by MPD Chief Lawrence Battiste “antithetical” to what America stands for. Dearman said the suspension came one day before a magistrate judge found probable cause to issue a search warrant for the business.
“He hasn’t been able to tell his side of the story,” Dearman said. “What did they investigate? What did they find? Nothing that I’m aware of.”
Council attorney Wanda Cochran reminded councilors the criminal investigation into a number of wrecker companies is not relevant to the issue of MPD’s decision to remove Casher’s business from the wrecker rotation.
Mobile Police Department Attorney Wanda Rahman told councilors that officials had found a number of “infractions” committed by Casher’s Wrecker Service by studying the company’s invoices. Rahman said Casher charged a customer a $60 gate fee, which is not part of the city’s ordinance. The company charged $25 for a dry oil fee, which is not part of the ordinance. The company was also charging more than the $20-per-day allowed by the city for impound storage, Rahman said.
“We’re not pulling this out of thin air; we’re getting this information from looking at their invoices,” Rahman said. “We’re not getting this second hand. We’re verifying the information in their documents.”
Dearman asked to view a copy of the invoice Rahman was referencing, but he was denied by council Vice President Levon Manzie.
Dearman argued the city was denying Casher a chance to make a living. Councilman Joel Daves pointed out being suspended from the rotating list does not prevent a towing company from doing business, it just prevents them from receiving service calls from the police.
Dearman said he was “not prepared” to answer a question from Lagniappe pertaining to the percentage of business Casher receives from the police department.
Casher’s business was suspended on July 11 and the service could be put back on the list at the end of the 30-day period, but it’s unclear if that will happen. Dearman seemed to doubt it, comparing the city’s move to an “indefinite suspension.”
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).