Bob's Towing Unleashes the Dogs, Fullerton Police Bite Back

A week after the Weekly reported that local business Bob's Towing had sued the Fullerton Police department for harassment, the department fired back with a salvo of its own. Tuesday's city council meeting saw the embattled department unveiling a nearly 600 page report detailing a  year-long investigation of six service providers who competed for a city franchise. 

Nearly 200 of those pages offered a scathing portrayal of Bob's Towing. 

In January of 2011 the city put out a request for bids which would award qualified companies a franchise. The city would charge tow companies a $75 fee for each police tow to cover an estimated $250,000 in administration costs. 

Competing companies included: Anaheim Fullerton Towing, Metro Pro, Brookhurst Towing, Bob's Towing, Country City Towing and To' Mo' Towing.

The report, filled with inspection records of each companies' buisiness offices, tow trucks and their drivers, summarily recommended the city council grant a franchise to long-time contractor Anaheim Fullerton Towing with a secondary franchise going to To' and Mo' Towing. Both were hailed by commercial enforcement officers as models of professionalism. 

But the bulk of the voluminous tome included police reports, court records and other documents not typically released by police to the public. These painted the owner of Bob's Towing, Charles “Charlie” Al-Badawi, who recently sued the city, as a dishonest businessman, fond of hiring shady characters who roam the highways outfitted with substandard rigs and equipment. 
Despite the mountains of paper work police presented to the council, no contracts were awarded. Following a presentation by Traffic Bureau Manger Lt. Scott Rudisil, Councilmember Bruce Whitaker remarked about the singular criticism heaped on Bob's Towing.
“It's an unusual presentation in that we heard a lot of detail about a complete rap sheet against one of the tow companies,” said Whitaker. “I really didn't hear anything about violations from other tow companies.”
A subsequent motion introduced by Whitaker and seconded by Mayor Sharon Quirk-Silva, saw the council voting 3-2 to reevaluate the process by which the city awards towing contracts. The possibility of involving a third party independent of the police for tow company evaluations was also proposed. 
“It needs to be above board and fair-handed,” said Whitaker at Tuesday's late night session. “I've had enough from all of this to have doubts about this. I don't know anything for certain, but it appears to me the process hasn't been as clean and above the board as I would like to see.” 
Last Tuesday the Weekly reported that Safeway Towing Services [DBA Bob's Towing] filed suit on Jan. 13 against the Fullerton PD for using harassment and intimidation “to both discourage Plaintiff's business activities in Fullerton, and to undermine Plaintiff's opportunity to bid on the police contract.”
The document, filed in Orange County Superior Court, asked for a temporary restraining order against officers–who issued company drivers more than 40 tickets–many for driving off the city-approved truck route. Councilmember Don Bankhead, who voted against reevaluating the tow contract process, suggested the tickets were issued because of drivers' confrontational attitudes.
Bob's attempted to win its contract with the city by spending more than $450,000 to establish the only tow facility within Fullerton town limits. But according to the police's investigative summary, the company kept shoddy vehicle records and operated a fleet of poorly maintained vehicles, none of which passed inspection. Police also say the company's evidence hold area, a key component of the bidding qualifications, was improperly located in a lot across the street from the company's primary storage yard.
Numerous allegations of employee dishonesty were cited including one regarding a Compliance Safety and Accountability Program implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in 2010. 
“None of the staff at Bob's Towing was familiar with CSA 2010, ” reads the report. “Ironically though on page 64 of the company's RFP they specifically address CSA 2010, in fact they write that they 'strictly adhere to the Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program.”
During their investigation Fullerton police spoke with three Los Angeles County agencies who contract with Bob's towing; none offered their recommendation for the company. On a questionnaire asking California Highway Patrol officer G. Fithian if his agency experienced any problems with Bob's, he wrote “Yes, several complaints, unprofessional demeanor, dishonesty on the part of the manager Charlie Al-Badawi.” 
A report from Baldwin Park CHP alleges that in October 2011 a couple of Bob's drivers responding to a traffic collision involving a big rig filled with sporting goods “unlawfully removed and attempted to conceal cargo” from the wreckage–including shoes and exercise equipment. One was a registered sex offender, the other had been charged with numerous violations including drug possession and assault with a firearm.
A more recent report details an August 2011 incident between Al-Badawi and Officer Michelle Bond, a Baldwin Park CHP tow truck inspector. Bond went to Bob's Rowland Heights' yard to conduct a vehicle inspection with three other officers. Al-Badawi repeatedly asked why they were at his yard and that the trucks had already been inspected. Officer Bond told an upset Al-Badawi to call her supervisor. 
He then allegedly responded “If I have to go to your management, I will hurt you.”  Bond felt threatened and the CHP charged Al Ba-Dawi with making a criminal threat, although the Los Angeles District Attorney's office declined to pursue the case.
Nevertheless, as a result of the incident, Bob's CHP towing contract was suspended. The company responded on Oct. 12, 2011 by filing a lawsuit against the CHP in Los Angeles Superior Court, arguing that its due process rights were violated when its contract was suspended.
Toward the end of Tuesday night's discussion of the towing agenda item, councilmembers touched on the subject of the city's truck routes which prevent large vehicles from driving across specific streets and bridges. Drivers complain that in order to comply with the law they're forced to take time consuming circuitous routes around the city to reach stranded motorists.
“We do need to take a step back and take a look at these policies and see if they conform with other cities,” said Whitaker. “What I'm hearing is that a lot of these problems are unique to Fullerton . . . I believe there could be some personal vendettas involved by key personnel,” he said. “I've never experienced something so imbalanced as these recommendations and reports.”

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