NewsChannel 5 Investigates Towing Company Practices - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

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NewsChannel 5 Investigates Towing Company Practices

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Park in the wrong spot and you might expect to be towed.

Metro has licensed dozens of Nashville towing companies to tow your car if you park illegally. 

But a NewsChannel 5 investigation is raising questions about how some of them operate.  

When the sun goes down they're out in force. Park in the wrong spot and they could come after you.

But NewsChannel 5 Investigates found not all towing companies are following the rules.

Carolyn Wilson and her husband had their car towed at least twice by the same company, and her husband was furious.

"He said as far as I'm concerned my car has been stolen and I will call police," Wilson said

Her husband, Eric Wilson, worked late night at FedEx/Kinko's in downtown Nashville.  Able Towing Company was supposed to tow illegally parked cars from the company's lot.

But Wilson said Able towed her husband's car and customers' cars.

"They just take it upon themselves to grab a car without asking, nobody calling," Wilson said.

Companies that tow illegally parked cars can charge up to $85. But they must follow strict guidelines.

Brian McQuistion is executive director of the Metro Transportation and Licensing Commission, which licenses towing companies.  He said if companies don't follow the rules they are stealing the car. 

He said there were several complaints filed against Able Towing.

In July, the commission suspended Able's license to tow illegally parked cars for one year for repeated violations.

The violations include overcharging, cruising for tows and towing cars without proper authorization.

"Those are serious charges and there are a lot of them," McQuistion said.

Able appealed the suspension and can operate until a Metro judge makes a final ruling. So the company keeps operating.

"We tow.  It ain't nothing personal," said Mark Wayman, owner of Able Towing.  "If I don't do it, another tow company is going to do it," he said.

He is suing Metro, claiming the commission discriminates against his business.

"They don't like me point blank," he said.  "They don't like me. I don't like them.  We don't see eye to eye."

Wayman has always said his company follows the rules.

According to Metro's towing rules all companies must show who authorized the tow by filling out a tow slip.

This is important because companies cannot authorize themselves to tow a car.  So the person authorizing the tow must be affiliated with the property owner but have no relationship with the towing company.

When Able towed Carolyn Wilson's car the tow slip was signed by Debbie Knight.

"Do you know Debbie Knight?" asked NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Ben Hall.

Wayman said, "No. I know of Debbie Knight."

But NewsChannel 5 found an old state application in which Knight used her maiden name. She listed an address identical to Wayman's.

NewsChannel 5 also found that she is the sister of Robert Flowers, one of Wayman's tow truck drivers.

Hall asked Wayman, "So that would indicate the two of you know each other pretty well."

Wayman said, "I didn't say we don't know each other.  I'm just saying we're not related."

Hall said, "But she lived at your house?"

Wayman responded, "Ah, we've got rental properties."

Hall then said, "If they're brother and sister, clearly you know who Debbie Flowers is and she's been authorizing tows that would seem to be inappropriate?"

Wayman said, "Would it?"

"This is a violation of our rules," McQuistion said.

McQuistion said the commission suspected Knight was too close to Able to authorize tows.

"This is the first time I've seen the connection of her former address or even her name Debbie Flowers," McQuistion said.

Wayman said Wilson's car was not properly marked, and Knight no longer authorizes tows.

But Able continues getting complaints.

Steve and Pam Adrean called police last month when they found Able trying to tow their car. The drivers claimed the property owner was with them and wanted the car towed.

"First he said he was the owner, then he changed it to well I'm the manager.  I manage the property," Steve Adrean said.

Eventually police let them drive their car away.

But Wayman contends his business is unfairly targeted.

"How come I can do business in Cheatham County, Jackson, Tenn., Savannah, Tenn., and I've not had one problem, but I'm an outlaw in Nashville," Wayman said.

There's no doubt Able tows plenty of cars that should be towed.

Many property owners appreciate how quickly they respond.

But Metro is really cracking down, demanding that towing companies follow the rules.

The transportation commission promises to investigate the new information NewsChannel 5 has brought to their attention.

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