Sunday, June 2, 2013

Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn Led Changes to Towing Law as Council President that Allowed His Former Law Firm's Client to Win Monopoly Contract

Back in November of 2010, I was flipped through the introduced council resolutions when I stumbled upon one that had not been reported on yet.  I proceeded to write about it in an article that appeared on my blog on November 16, 2010:
Little noticed last night was the introduction of Resolution 298, 2010. Authored by Council President Ryan Vaughn, the resolution has a digest that reads:
Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn
DIGEST: amends the Code to unify franchise zone tow contracts and abandoned vehicle tow contracts for efficient removal, storage and disposal of impounded or abandoned vehicles under the authority of the department of code enforcement, and further to provide authority for employees of the department of code enforcement to direct the impoundment of vehicles declared a public nuisance.
The current situation has the City divided into zones and towing companies that want a contract in that zone engage in a bidding process.

Vaughn seeks to change that. Instead of city business spread out among several towing companies, Vaughn wants a "Franchise Wrecker Service" to be awarded an exclusive contract to tow and store vehicles on behalf of the City or anyone who contracts with the city. The administration, through its Director of Code Enforcement (with input from the Director of Public Safety and the IMPD Chief) would have the right to award the exclusive contract. The contract will be based on specifications provided by the Department of Code Enforcement in a request for proposal, request for invitation to bid or request to quote. See 611-206.

Pursuant to Vaughn's proposal, all impounded or abandoned vehicles identified by the City or City contractor would have to be towed by the Franchise Wrecker Service and stored on that company's lot. The proposal explicitly prohibits those vehicles from being stored on lots owned by the City or County. 611-205(a). When claiming a vehicle, the owner gets charged a towing fee and a per-day storage fee as provided in the contract entered into between the city and franchise wrecker. 611-205(b). There is no limit in Vaughn's proposal on how much these towing and storage fees will be.

Vaughn's resolution expands the definition of impoundment to include the removal (by the city or a city contractor) of vehicles from private property. 611-202. Of course the Franchise Wrecker Service is the company which gets paid the towing and storage fees.

Almost certainly Vaughn and city leaders have in mind which wrecker company they want to steer this lucrative exclusive contract to....
Following a council committee meeting a couple weeks later I again reported on what the ordinance would do, including this paragraph:
Vaughn's proposal would eliminate the bid requirement with the administration instead choosing which company receives the monopoly contract. The change in the ordinance would award one mega contract to a towing company which then could subcontract out to other companies to tow in the zones. Instead of the city picking those companies, the company awarded the contract could pick who they choose to partner with.
At the time Council President Ryan Vaughn introduced and pushed through the 2010 measure changing the law in order to allow the Ballard administration to award a non-competitive bid, monopoly towing contract, Vaughn was employed by the law firm Barnes & Thornburg.  In May of 2012, Vaughn left the Council Presidency and Barnes & Thornburg to became Mayor Greg Ballard's Chief of Staff and, thus, and in a position to influence the awarding of the towing contract. That same year, Barnes & Thornburg partner Bryan Burdick filed to lobby Indianapolis city officials, including Vaughn, on behalf of AutoReturn.  And who wins the lucrative contract in May of 2013?  AutoReturn, of course..

No comments: