City of Platte City facing civil lawsuit over towing contract

A disagreement over the City of Platte City’s contract for emergency towing services escalated into a civil lawsuit and a now a scheduled jury trial, tentatively set for June of 2016. According to court documents, Jared Innis of All-Star Tow filed a petition with Platte County Circuit Court in late April, and the city received notice of the claims in May. The city’s legal counsel later filed a motion for dismissal, but the parties requested a trial during a court appearance on Aug. 14.

All-Star Tow held the city’s contract for the previous three years, but in March, the Platte City Board of Aldermen approved Express Tow for a one-year agreement with two option years. According to Platte City city manager DJ Gehrt, Express Tow bid 1 cent as the base price for all tows and came in cheaper than All Star Tow on all aspects of the bid.

However, Innis contests the validity of Express Tow’s bid in his petition, as well as questioning the city’s ethics.

At odds appears to be the definition of the required equipment needed for bid. The petition notes that the city’s request for proposals, which went out in January, detailed the minimum fleet required from responding companies, which included six vehicles spread across four defined classes.

The requirement includes “two flatbed trucks” required to a Class 3 vehicle, which weighs between 10,000 and 14,000 pounds. The petition includes an attached exhibit that shows Express Tow’s flatbeds are not rated to tow more than 12,000 pounds.

According to court documents, Innis claims to have contacted Gehrt about the discrepancy. Gehrt allegedly defended the city’s right to “waive irregularities” and that Express Tow could “get the job done.”

In addition, the petition notes that a zero bid or below-cost bid as unethical. Innis said All-Star Tow would’ve submitted a different bid than the $2.50 base fee if they had that knowledge about waiving irregularities.

The declaratory judgement states that Express Tow’s bid should have been rejected, and therefore the contract should be awarded to All-Star Tow as the only viable bid submitted. It also claims that the bidding process unlawfully promoted favoritism and collusion and asks for any “other relief as the court deems just and proper.”

The city’s motion to dismiss claims that no evidence of increased burden on the taxpayer exists. In a pair of subsequent replies traded between the parties, the city also notes that All-Star Tow admits to being the highest bid and insists that the competition was on equal terms and without the unlawful favoritism or collusion the plaintiff alleges.

The city tows about 30 to 40 cars a year, mostly after accidents inside the city limits but also including recovered stolen vehicles and vehicles impounded after commission of a crime. The contracted tow service is required to be available 24 hours a day with a max response time of 20 minutes.