Dallas Co. Promises to Unravel Towing "Mess"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Dallas County leaders are promising results today after years of controversy over cars towed and stored at a south Dallas county storage lot. (Published Friday, Mar 18, 2011)

    Dallas County officials reassured angry residents Friday that they would address the controversial towing practices of two constables.

    About a dozen people demonstrated on the steps of the County Administration Building on Elm Street on Friday morning.

    Dallas County Towing Controversy

    [DFW] Dallas County Towing Controversy
    Dallas County leaders are promising results today after years of controversy over cars towed and stored at a south Dallas county storage lot. (Published Friday, Mar 18, 2011)

    They said Constable Derick Evans and former Constable Jaime Cortes failed to properly notify owners of thousands of cars towed to Dowdy Ferry Auto Service over the past several years.

    Some cars allegedly were auctioned without the owner's knowledge.

    Other owners said the storage fees at the south Dallas County lot were so high that they could not afford to recover the car.

    Community activist Carlos Quintanilla said most of the affected owners are Hispanic.

    "They have put a scam on our community, and we're not going to let a scam be run on our community," he said.

    "Why don’t they do this in other areas?" asked demonstrator Teresa Tomayo. "This is only for the community, the Hispanic community. We need an explanation right here."

    The demonstrators were blocked from entering the County Administration Building at first. But they were then granted a meeting with Bob McGrath, a former state district judge who works as the staff attorney for Dallas County commissioners.

    County Judge Clay Jenkins said a Commissioners Court vote to assign McGrath to unravel the towing controversy is scheduled for Tuesday.

    "We'll make sure that everyone is treated fairly, and this matter is resolved and that lot is cleared of cars," Jenkins said.

    Jenkins said records to determine who owns some of the 1,200 in the lot are or if all cars were auctioned properly are missing.

    "I think 'a mess' is a fair description," he said.

    McGrath and Quintanilla spoke together after what they called a "cordial" meeting.

    "We're going to get this done as friends, and if something wrong happened, we're going to put it on the table and say, 'This guy didn’t get notice.' It's that simple," McGrath said.

    "We appreciate the fact that he’s agreed to do that," Quintanilla said.

    McGrath's employment with the county has been a subject of controversy.

    He was hired last year, when the Commissioners Court had a Republican majority, to help commissioners deal with Democratic District Attorney Craig Watkins, among other things.

    In January, when a new Democratic majority took office, members made it clear that McGrath would not be retained after his contract expires May 2.

    McGrath said he will work with everybody to get the towing matter settled by May second.

    Evans and Cortes were indicted in December on suspicion of alleged election campaign law violations.

    No criminal charges have been filed regarding the towing accusations, but Mesquite attorney Ted Lyon was appointed as a special prosecutor in the constable investigation. He has said that the case is not closed.