Accion America, a small Dallas-based group formed to protest restrictive laws proposed in Farmers Branch and Irving, threatened to file a class-action lawsuit against the county on behalf of vehicle owners.This whole profligate, praetorian saga over towing contracts with Dallas constables just gets uglier with every new twist. It's disgraceful that county commissioners are pushing to sell impounded cars so quickly. It makes it appear that they're more worried about getting their hands on the money than figuring out if the vehicles were taken as part of some kind of scam. Neither the constable nor the towing company can provide any "report showing how many vehicles were towed, how many were claimed, how many were sold and other relevant information." Whether it's from fraud, incompetence or some other reason, that's pretty pathetic.
Carlos Quintanilla, the group’s leader, said Friday that [former Constable Jaime] Cortes, who left office last summer, racially profiled Hispanics and essentially stole their vehicles by using his towing contractor, Dowdy Ferry Auto Services, to impound the vehicles.
Most owners, Quintanilla said, were never contacted about where their vehicles were — a violation of state law. By the time some found out, the towing and storage fees were too high for them to claim the vehicles, he said.
“That’s what angers us,” he said. “It’s an atrocity.”
Precinct 5 Constable Beth Villarreal, who defeated Cortes last year and is responsible for the vehicles, had wanted to halt the auctions until she saw paperwork on all of the more than 5,000 vehicles impounded under Cortes.
Dowdy Ferry, however, declined to comply, leading to a stalemate and further delays.
BTW, I've never met Dallas News reporter Kevin Krause face to face, but IMO he's the best beat journalist covering county government in Texas. Over the last year or so, he's done Dallas a great mitzvah by doggedly pursuing allegations of improprieties in towing contracts, reporting which in part led to the ouster of a couple of Dallas constables. At this point, Kevin's work is so far out on the cutting edge of the topic, I'd like to see him author a how-to piece aimed at other journalists - perhaps published somewhere like the Columbia Journalism Review, or he's always welcome to do a guest post on Grits - to spread the specialized knowledge about how to investigate similar situations in other jurisdictions. The public pays far less attention to counties than city government, and less attention still to constables, who usually fly under everybody's radar. I suspect that, if similarly diligent and skilled reporting tactics were applied in other jurisdictions around the state, such problematic towing contracts - like commissary graft scandals at jails few years back - would turn out to be a recurring problem elsewhere, not just a one-off in Big D.