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Controversy Raised Over City's Towing Contract

By Amy Perry in News on Feb 3, 2010 9:40PM

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Photo by CarusoPhoto
Controversy erupted this week when the Daley administration awarded a $31.5 million towing contract to "clout heavy" United Road Towing, who has held onto the business for 20 years despite complaints from aldermen. In 1989, Daley gave the towing contract to Environmental Auto Removal, whose owners had ties to one of his closest friends, former State Sen. Jeremiah Joyce. In 2003, the contract was up for bid but the firm and parent company, United Road Services, still held on despite an FBI raid into the company’s records searching for ties to an interstate auto theft ring.

According to the Sun-Times, United has received $36.3 million since 2005 and the new contract awarded last month calls for them to manage and secure four Streets and Sanitation auto pounds, release Denver boots, tow abandoned vehicles within 24 hours of written notice and tow illegally parked vehicles within 90 minutes of city requests. Tegsco, the only other bidder, was said to have lacked experience handling the city’s towing needs and failed to provide an adequate staffing plan, in addition to using sub-contractors. A spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Procurement said United was chosen due to its “dedicated fleet of 97 pieces” of towing equipment and qualified staff to do the job.

In another twist to the controversy, the Sun-Times points out that an attorney and former president of Environmental, Martin McNally, is an investor with Joyce in a company that holds a no-bid concession contract at O'Hare Airport. McNally has also done legal work the former deputy in the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation.

Due to a mismanaged city sale of thousands of cars, regardless of age, going to United for scrap-metal price back in 2004, the new contract requires the contractor to notify the city whenever a vehicle targeted for disposal "has a value in excess of $10,000 or receives a bid in excess of that amount."