Fort Worth has ended its relationship with Fort Worth’s Beard’s Towing.
The city previously suspended its relationship with the company on March 31, 2022, pending dual state and local investigations into alleged fraudulent activity. Fort Worth City Council discussed the company’s legal situation in executive session Tuesday.
Following the executive session, the Fort Worth Police Department chose to permanently suspend its relationship with Beard’s Towing. The company and its president James Bennett were notified of their permanent suspension on Feb. 9.
“After due consideration of your company’s repeated contractual violations of the city’s requirements and actions taken since the suspension was imposed, the city has decided to permanently suspend your company from the approved tow provider list,” a letter addressed to Bennett from Chief Neil Noakes reads. “Your company will not receive any dispatch requests for police-initiated and police-purpose tows.”
The letter also accuses Beard’s Towing of charging towing fees in excess of the authorized amount, failing to provide required information and verbally abusing city employees. The company has denied any wrongdoing.
In a civil lawsuit, Beard’s Towing estimated it lost $568,458.06 in revenue from March 31 through August 2022 after its contract was suspended. Brian Walters, the company’s lawyer, called the city’s decision unfortunate.
“After clearing its name of these unfounded charges and demanding reinstatement, the Fort Worth Police Department has now manufactured allegations of overcharging,” Walters said in a statement. “Anyone following the events that have transpired can see this is nothing more than the Fort Worth Police Department moving the goalpost in an attempt to justify the witch hunt my client endured for the last year.”
“The information in the letter is truthful and accurate,” Sgt. Amelia Heise, a spokesperson for the Fort Worth Police Department, said in a statement.
Arlington gives Beard’s Towing $150,000 contract
Beard’s Towing was the subject of a state investigation that resulted in a notice of administrative hearing filed by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Beard’s Towing denied any wrongdoing and filed counterclaims against the state for its attorney’s fees and costs. The state and Beard’s Towing reached a settlement on Jan. 13, causing the company to drop its pursuit of attorney’s fees. The case against the company was closed as part of the settlement.
Criminal misdemeanor charges against Beard’s Towing employee Jennifer Gaither were also dismissed on Dec. 2. Gaither had been charged with two counts of tampering with a government record following an investigation by the Fort Worth police department.
Beard’s was one of at least 23 approved towing companies the city of Fort Worth uses. AutoReturn, a national company based in San Francisco, manages the companies as subcontractors for about $525,000 each year. The company first entered into an agreement with the city in 2018, and the current contract expires in September.
Under the contract with AutoReturn, the city has several disciplinary options for subcontractors, including mentoring the company, issuing temporary suspensions for up to 90 days and permanently suspending the company from the city’s list of approved towing providers.
Originally, the city’s contract with Beard’s extended into 2023, according to assistant city manager Fernando Costa. Beard’s has been in business since 1954, and city records show the company has secured contracts with Fort Worth since at least 2012.
In September, the city of Arlington approved a $150,000 three-year contract with the towing company. A clause in the contract allowed Arlington to terminate the agreement if Beard’s Towing were to lose its license, said Susan Schrock, a city spokesperson.
Beard’s Towing responds to state alleged violation
In response to a notice of administrative hearing, Beard’s Towing accused the state department of training and regulation of unfairly targeting the company.
“This is a frivolous administrative action brought by the Department in an attempt to penalize a towing company for being the victim of a negligent continuing education provider that the Department failed to adequately audit, supervise, and regulate,” the filing reads.
The filing accuses the original complainant Shawn Tallant Jr. of filing a bogus complaint with the state department, and accuses the department of misapplying the law to the towing company.
The filing also accuses the department of sharing the notice of alleged violation with “certain officials at the City of Fort Worth.” It accuses the department of taking this action with the intent to harm Beard’s Towing.
“This conduct had one purpose – to interfere with the business affairs of (Beard’s Towing),” the filing reads. “It was designed to cause more damage to (Beard’s Towing) than had already been caused by the Department’s groundless investigation.”
The city’s decision to remove Beard’s from the towing list is final and binding, according to Assistant Chief Robert Alldredge.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter.
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