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Wednesday, 19 November 2014 00:00

Whittier, CA City Council split on contract renewal with Hadley Tow

A seemingly routine request for a renewal of Hadley Tow's contract with the city mushroomed into a contentious debate between two factions of City Council at its Oct. 14 meeting.

During the meeting, council discussed the use of lobbyists by Hadley and a list of violations by the towing company put forward by Police Chief Jeff Piper.

"The Police Department has had significant concerns with Hadley Tow," states the memo, which the Daily News obtained through a public records request.

The problems with Hadley Tow listed in Piper's memo include failing to maintain evidence for vehicles that were involved in serious or fatal collisions, intimidating clients to use Hadley's auto collision center with high tow and storage fees, "hard selling" Hadley's body shop, and other incidents.

The memo said the father of the victim of a fatal collision was allowed to enter the car after it was impounded for evidence, a motorcycle impounded after a serious traffic collision was left out in the rain, and a vehicle involved in a fatal collision was improperly handled while it was being held as evidence. It also included allegations of assaults between Hadley drivers and rival tow companies and numerous citations.

On Oct. 26, 2013, an officer "observed a Hadley vehicle parked in a disabled parking space at Circle K, 12603 Beverly Blvd. The vehicle was unoccupied and upon looking inside the vehicle attempting to locate a placard, (the officer) saw an opened can of beer and an empty bottle of hard liquor. He eventually contacted the driver, a Hadley Tow maintenance worker, and verified he not only had a suspended license but an outstanding warrant for DUI," states Piper's memo.

Towing contracts are typically extended "upon approval of the Chief of Police," the memo states. In May 2013, the Police Department decided not to extend Hadley's contract.

Mark Hassan, owner of Hadley Tow, acknowledged that there have been some problems in the past. But he said those have been corrected and the company has a zero-tolerance policy, a drug-free workforce of trained employees who are screened before hiring.

"In the past, we've always done a good job for the city of Whittier, and if any issues arose, we addressed them accordingly, just like any other business," he said.
The company, 11819 Hadley St., was founded in 1952 and has more than 75 employees, he said.

In February, the memo states, an officer stopped a Hadley Tow vehicle for speeding on Mar Vista Street. The driver said he was trying to get to a call for service from a person locked out of a vehicle.

"The Hadley driver banged his fists on the steering wheel in anger as the officer attempted to explain the citation," said the memo. "The employee then grabbed the citation from the officer and sped away. The officer pointed the radar at the vehicle and determined he was yet again speeding but correctly chose not to initiate another stop."

Those who had lobbied for Hadley's renewal in the process were later identified as former City Councilman Greg Nordbak and former executive director of the Whittier Uptown Association Allan Nakken.

Nordbak did not return a call for comment.

However, Nakken, who described Nordbak and himself at friends of the Hassan family, defended Hadley, saying it has received letters of citation from the Sheriff's Department and AAA and operates 24 hours a day. He said Hassan is committed to providing good service to the city.

"He's being treated like a criminal, and that's not right," said Nakken. "It's a good family."

The issues triggered a lengthy discussion at the Oct. 14 council meeting.

"I see a consistent pattern of improper behavior," said Councilman Owen Newcomer. "I do not see any indication their behavior has changed."

But Councilmen Joe Vinatieri and Fernando Dutra spoke in favor of it.

"As a business-friendly city, we need to work with them to see if they can't fix their issues," said Dutra. "I think they deserve a second chance."

The renewal request fell short on a 2-2 vote, with Vinatieri and Dutra in favor and Newcomer and Warner opposed. The matter was continued to tonight's meeting when all five members of the council will be present.

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