Detroit inspector general report: Keep ban on Detroit towing firms
Detroit fraud investigators upheld their recommendations that the city deny contracts to several companiesthat had been involved in the city's scandal-plagued towing operations, saying the firms' representatives failed to show "the companies are responsible contractors who conduct business in the city with honesty and integrity."
The proposals outlined in reports from the city’s Office of Inspector General released Monday focus on Boulevard & Trumbull, Javion & Sam's 24 Hour Towing Service, Gene's Towing, B&G Towing and Citywide.
The businesses had been granted administrative hearings to present evidence, testimony and supporting information in response to the office's initial recommendation in May to Mayor Mike Duggan that Detroit police and Municipal Parking Department not consider the companies' bids for towing contracts.
The city had suspended Boulevard & Trumbull, the city's largest tow company, from the police towing rotation after its former leader, Gasper Fiore, was arraigned in federal court last year for his part in a Macomb County bribery scheme. He is serving a 21-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to corruption charges. The federal probe also involved Detroit towing corruption.
Meanwhile, city officials suspended Javion & Sam's, Gene's and B&G from the tow rotation after then-Detroit Inspector General James Heath wrote a letter to Duggan alleging Fiore secretly owned the firms.
The city also barred Citywide, which authorities claimed had ties to Fiore, from obtaining contracts.
In the May 7 letter, obtained by The Detroit News, Heath said he's able to link Fiore to those companies based on wiretapped conversations he had with former Detroit police attorney and deputy chief Celia Washington, who pleaded guilty in January to accepting a bribe from the towing titan.
A newly released analysis by the Office of Inspector General showed it received a complaint from the city’s Law Department this year alleging Fiore “engaged in fraudulent, corrupt, unethical, and/or criminal behavior on behalf of Boulevard & Trumbull while acting as a towing contractor" for Detroit and the Police Department.
“Parties representing the tow companies failed to provide evidence that would allow the OIG to render a different recommendation from its initial findings,” the city's report said. “In short, they failed to show the companies are responsible contractors who conduct business in the city with honesty and integrity.”
Washington was sentenced in April to a year in prison after pleading guilty to taking a $3,000 bribe from Fiore in exchange for giving him favorable treatment.
The OIG also upheld its suspension recommendations for Javion & Sam's, Gene's and B&G.
Investigators noted Javion & Sam’s is owned by Joan Fiore, who was married to Gasper Fiore between 1981 and 2013. Her company, which she said Gasper Fiore had no interest in, and the others facing contract restrictions have been “authorized to do business at locations that overlap with each other” and “operate from locations that are all owned by Joan Fiore through various real estate companies,” authorities wrote.
“… Further, it is apparent that Gene’s, Citywide, and B & G are closely connected to Gasper Fiore,” his relatives and Boulevard & Trumbull, while representatives for Javion & Sam’s, Gene’s, Citywide and B&G “were less than cooperative and forthcoming in that only selected information was provided to the OIG and several key witnesses refused to testify …”
Attorneys representing the towing companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night.
For years, Detroit's towing operation has faced issues, with multiple federal and police probes.
The city's business deals with Gasper Fiore were called into question in 2005 city audits that found former police officials gave an inordinate amount of towing business to Fiore, in violation of the towing rules; and awarded Fiore no-bid leases and overpaid for his buildings that were used for police operations.
The audits suggested that Detroit retool its towing operation, but when the police board began restructuring the process in 2009, accusations of intimidation, stalking and corruption rose.
In September, the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners passed a resolution allowing city police to provide towing service.