BRADENTON BEACH – City officials are concerned about the towing practices being used by a Bradenton-based towing company.
City Attorney Ricinda Perry initiated the towing concern discussion during the Thursday, March 3 city commission meeting. Perry and Police Chief John Cosby were directed by commissioners to develop city-wide towing standards and maximum fees to be considered at a future meeting.
“I have received a number of communications from the community, businesses, elected officials and the police department about towing in the city,” Perry told the commission.
She said state law sets forth how and where towing signs are placed and worded to legally tow a vehicle. She said towing companies have to provide local law enforcement agencies with copies of their current rates and those rates must be posted at the properties where a towing company has towing rights.
“I don’t really want to get into the business of telling the towing company or business where they’ve got to put the signs,” Perry said. “If they can’t read the statute and put the signs where they belong, then that’s on them; and the individual who is towed has the right to challenge that they shouldn’t have been towed because it was improperly signed per the statute.”
Police chief’s insight
“We have gotten several requests from attorneys that have dealt with this,” Chief Cosby said. “It’s just one company. My officers have cited them twice already: one was because they had improper lights on their truck and the other was when they dropped the car off the truck. And they just had an incident up in Holmes Beach where they dropped a Cadillac Escalade off the truck. It veered across traffic and ran into something.”
Cosby told The Sun he was referring specifically to Manatee Towing.
He added that some properties containing the towing company’s signs are under construction or are being renovated and are not occupied or fully occupied. When those properties are occupied, he said, the property managers and patrons should know which vehicles are legally parked there.
Cosby referenced the Anna Maria Inn/Pelican Post resort property at 202 First Street N. and another property on Third Street South where towing has recently occurred.
A visit to the Anna Maria Inn/Pelican Post resort property that evening revealed at least one Manatee Towing sign present on the property.
“The gentleman is being given carte blanche to tow from the area,” Cosby said.
Regarding other properties, Cosby said that before a vehicle can be towed from the Circle K convenience store property the tow truck driver has to consult with the sales clerk.
The towing company being discussed, he said, has carte blanche to tow cars illegally parked at the Bradenton Beach Post Office, where after-hours and weekend parking is allowed in certain parking spaces only, with three spaces reserved at all times for post office patrons only.
Commissioner Jake Spooner said tow trucks constantly circling in the Bridge Street area contribute to the traffic congestion.
“They’re making a fortune doing it, too,” he added.
Cosby said legal fees being incurred by the towing company may be cutting into their profits.
“I wish we had a company that was somewhat reasonable and professional, where they’re not dropping cars and have functioning equipment,” Spooner said.
He questioned whether the city could select one towing company to serve as the city’s towing vendor.
Mayor John Chappie noted the city previously issued a request for proposals seeking a designated towing company for the city’s towing needs, but the city received no responses.
Cosby said the city doesn’t have the legal right to require a property owner to use a certain city-approved towing company.
Spooner asked if the city could establish maximum fees for towing or releasing a vehicle that’s about to be towed. Perry said the state statute allows a city or county government to establish those maximum fees.
“I would suggest the city seriously consider exercising its right under the statute and help mitigate the problem that people are complaining about,” Perry said.
“I’d be happy to do that,” Spooner said.
Spooner then commented on an incident that took place the previous night.
“A couple of elderly ladies parked in the handicapped spot in front of the post office,” he recalled. “They (the towing company) jerked their car and now they’re stranded out here. They’ve never taken an Uber in their life. One of my employees got them an Uber. It creates major issues for people and then you get there and they only take cash and need another Uber to go to a 7-Eleven or somewhere to get cash.”
“Imagine if your car is in east Bradenton and you have no way to get there,” Spooner said of the inconvenience created by towing.
Perry said she knows someone who was recently towed and had to walk a mile to get cash to get their vehicle back.
Cosby said the city could establish maximum fees, but he doesn’t know how the city could enforce those towing rates that are paid to the towing company at its property in Bradenton. He also said every car towed needs to be reported to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office so the owner knows the vehicle wasn’t stolen.
Commissioner Jan Vosburgh said aggressive tow companies give the city of Bradenton Beach a bad reputation.
Cosby said, “Somebody that has a business in the city – I’m not going to say who – is allowing him to use property in the village (Cortez) to tow the cars to so he doesn’t have to take them all the way out (to the Bradenton headquarters).”
Spooner questioned whether that practice is legal and whether each vehicle has to be towed directly to the towing company property, where the vehicle can be reclaimed.
“That is going to be Manatee County’s responsibility. Once it goes over that bridge, we’re not responsible for it anymore,” Cosby responded.