Cedar Towing not off hook in Minneapolis

  • Article by: NICOLE NORFLEET , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 4, 2012 - 7:15 PM

The city of Minneapolis has written a letter to the company citing a list of complaints and saying its business license may be revoked.

In the wake of numerous Minneapolis city code violations, Cedar Towing & Auction Inc. could have its business license revoked, according to a letter the city recently sent to the company.

Cedar Towing, the city's largest tow operator, came under police investigation last year over allegations that it had overcharged vehicle owners.

That investigation concluded last month and the Hennepin County attorney's office decided not to prosecute, said police spokesman Steve McCarty.

But the company remains under scrutiny. From January of last year until October, the city says, Cedar Towing charged vehicle owners about $88,400 more than the legal limit. The majority of the overcharges stemmed from improper storage fees amounting to about $71,700.

In the Jan. 26 letter to Cedar Towing President Julie Rodrigue, Dana Banwer, the city's director of licensing and environmental services, said that several violations by the company have been recorded since a 2007 license settlement hearing.

They include:

• Charging towing service fees above those allowed.

• Conducting private impound towing services without proper authorization and/or without completing a tow order form as required.

• Providing remuneration to parking lot operators in the form of parking lot security patrol services.

• Failure to immediately transport private impounded vehicles to a licensed storage facility.

• Failure to accept credit cards as a form of payment on all days of the week as is required.

• Conducting private impound towing services from private parking lots where there are no entrance warning signs posted or the signs are not in compliance with city requirements.

Dan Rasmus, the attorney for Cedar Towing, said, "Many of the allegations are untrue."

In addition, he said, parts of the ordinance can be vague and unclear.

The letter says Cedar Towing's case has been referred to the city attorney "for possible adverse license action," which could include revocation or refusal to renew its business license, suspensions, administrative fines or additional business license operating conditions.

The letter gives Cedar Towing a choice: Close its business, allow the City Council to determine if any adverse license action should be taken, or opt for a hearing with an administrative law judge, in which case the City Council would still determine what action to take after receiving a report and recommendation from the judge.

Cedar Towing has until Wednesday to respond. Rasmus said the company is considering its options and wants to meet with city officials to try to address the issues.

In December, a Ramsey County man sued the company, accusing it of fraud and deceptive practices.

Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495

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