NEW BRAUNFELS -- Several towing companies are protesting the new towing contract system in place in New Braunfels. Two business owners claim the selection system for the wrecker companies showed favoritism and they believe one of the contracts is a conflict of interest.
Last month, the city council approved contracts for four wrecker companies to respond to police-related calls at wrecks and other emergencies. Previously, the police department had used 17 companies on a rotating basis. City officials say the police chief requested changing the contract system due to allegations of overcharging and other problems with some of the companies.
Garrison Maurer, who owns Comal Towing, says the selection system was unfair.
"The bid was for one company. At the last city council meeting, they decided to go with four companies. That's another issue, a major issue we have with the process," he explained.
His company did not receive a contract with the city. Maurer has copies of a proposal that says one of the currently contracted wreckers has listed a police officer as a tow truck driver.
"We feel it's a major conflict of interest. Can't score a company fairly when you have an officer involved as a city employee," he said.
"I feel that probably swayed in some of the decisions," Armando Hernandez agreed. He owns Hernandez Towing and has filed a lawsuit against the city.
"I feel like I was wronged. I feel like my mouth was taped shut. I wasn't able to contact the city council or the police department or anything," Hernandez said.
Hernandez was one of three towing company owners to speak to the city council Monday evening. However, the city attorney and mayor didn't allow Hernandez to address the council because of the pending litigation.
Maurer has filed a protest with the city through the purchasing department. City staff explained that department handled the proposals and the purchasing manager will make a decision on any protests. That decision can be appealed so the protest will be heard before the council.
The city declined to comment on the pending litigation and Mayor Gale Pospisil declined an interview, saying the purchasing department, not the council, was currently handling the protest. She said she didn't know anything about a police officer possibly working as a tow truck driver for one of the contracted companies.
A hearing for Hernandez' lawsuit has been scheduled for Jan. 23.