Cedar Towing faces fine in settlement

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 13, 2012 - 9:17 PM

The city's largest tow operator would keep license in a deal up for approval.

The largest tow-truck operator in Minneapolis would pay a $10,000 fine and see its license suspended for 30 days to settle allegations that it violated city towing rules under an agreement that comes before a City Council committee on Monday.

A city investigation surfaced last year in which Cedar Towing was accused of overcharging vehicle owners for tow services and improperly allowing an employee to authorize tows from private property. The company, at 359 Hoover St. NE., collected nearly $100,000 in improper fees last year alone, most of it from storage of towed vehicles, according to investigators.

Under the proposed settlement, Cedar Towing wouldn't admit any wrongdoing, nor would the settlement establish that Cedar broke any rules.

The settlement calls for a 30-day suspension of the company's "class A" towing license, which grants authority to tow vehicles off private property at the request of a person who is not the owner or operator of the vehicle.

The company would be allowed to continue to operate as a "class B" towing operator during the suspension, meaning it would be allowed to tow vehicles at the vehicle owners' request.

The agreement would also allow Cedar Towing to move its business to a new location at 3527 Dight Av. S.

No one from the company was available Friday for comment.

A police investigation of the company concluded earlier this year with no charges filed. The company still faced civil sanctions, however, and on Jan. 26 Dana Banwer, the city's director of licensing and environmental services, sent a letter to Cedar Towing's president, Julie Rodrigue, saying the company had violated several city ordinances.

The allegations included overcharging for towing, towing from private property without authorization, providing remuneration to parking lot operators in the form of parking lot security patrol services, failing to immediately transport private impounded vehicles to a licensed storage facility, failing to accept credit cards as a form of payment on all days of the week as is required, and 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.

Cedar Towing's attorney, Dan Rasmus, said in response to the letter that many of the allegations are untrue and that city ordinances were not clear.

On the issue of overcharges, Rasmus wrote in a Feb. 8 response to the city that the city ordinance on storage fees could be interpreted to mean that storage charges could be assessed beginning the moment a towed vehicle enters Cedar Towing's property.

"The city's own policy and history of enforcement supports a conclusion the ordinance is constitutionally vague and subject to arbitrary application," Rasmus wrote.

City officials contend that daily charges for storage can't begin until the day after the vehicle arrived at the lot.

Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747

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