Lawyers cry foul over Sugar Land towing contract
By Michael Sudhalter
Lawyers representing a longtime owner of a Missouri City-based towing business filed a suit on Monday in Fort Bend District Court, alleging that the city of Sugar Land unfairly awarded its tow truck contracts.
The lawsuit, which doesn’t seek monetary damages but rather to void the current contracts, isn’t against the city itself, but names several individuals in their official municipal capacity.
John Elias has owned and operated Collision Clinic for approximately 30 years and is one of the towing companies that had a contract with the city for many years.
In March, the Sugar Land Police re-did its towing contracts, and the number went from approximately 11 towers to five. Elias’ company wasn’t among those selected and has lost about half of his business, said Leland Irwin, a Richmond-based attorney representing him.
“Mr. Elias has done everything he can to avoid litigation – he’s tried to talk to city officials,” Irwin said. “The police department should have resolved it.”
Elias’ attorneys claim that some of the towing businesses that received contracts received “special treatment,” but city spokesman Doug Adolph said that is “not accurate.”
City officials declined to speak directly about the lawsuit, but issued a statement on the establishment of the new towing contracts in Sugar Land in March – the first time they’d re-done the process in more than a decade.
“The Sugar Land Police Department identified problems with its wrecker truck rotation that included tow trucks not on the contract arriving at accident scenes claiming they were sent by one of Sugar Land’s contracted companies,” according to the statement. “The chief of police recently established a process for annual renewal of the contracts to ensure insurance coverage is up to date and trucks that show up at accident scenes belong to companies on Sugar Land’s rotation. The new process better protects motorists from predatory business practices.”
Irwin said the new contracts state that companies can’t operate as a DBA “doing business as,” but according to the city, companies can operate as a DBA but not multiple DBAs.
Irwin said tow trucks companies that no longer have contracts to operate in Sugar Land could go elsewhere in the area.
“But that doesn’t pay the bills today,” he said.
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