RICHMOND -- The owner of a local tow company has accused the city and two council members of colluding to break the company's contract to provide towing services in Richmond.
Bruce Williams, owner of A&D Tow, filed a lawsuit Jan. 11 in Contra Costa County Superior Court naming the city of Richmond and Councilmen Corky Boozé and Tom Butt. He alleges that Boozé and Butt worked to exclude A&D from city contracts because of past disagreements with the company. The loss of the city contract could drive his company out of business, Williams said.
"Boozé and Butt engaged in attempts to coerce the city of Richmond into canceling all contracts with A&D Tow and to remove A&D Tow from the rotation list ..." the complaint reads. "Plaintiffs have suffered losses in business and income directly caused by the actions of all defendants."
The suit was filed by Jenny & Jenny LLP and the Law Office of Howard Mencher.
"The city will mount a vigorous defense on behalf of the council members and the city," said City Attorney Bruce Goodmiller. "We view these general allegations as having little or no merit."
Goodmiller said the city has hired Oakland-based Burke, Williams and Sorenson to defend the city and Butt and Boozé.
Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus said the city uses a rotation system of five private tow companies and that the review of the contracts was conducted by a panel including police, Code Enforcement and City Attorney's Office officials. He said A&D was the only one to be removed from the rotation, on grounds that it didn't meet some of the minimum equipment requirements.
"It was a completely fair and impartial process," Magnus said.
The 24-page complaint alleges that Boozé and Butt, frequent council rivals, joined forces in their disdain for the towing company and used their influence to stack the deck against it during a series of meetings in 2011-12 to reassess the city's roster of private tow companies.
According to the complaint, Boozé held a grudge against the North Richmond-based tow company because of an incident in the late 1990s, when some of his cars were towed. The complaint alleges that Boozé, fresh off his election, made an unexpected appearance at a meeting between police officials and tow company owners in early 2011.
"Boozé made it clear he desired to have the city terminate its contract" with the tow company, the complaint reads. As for Butt, his role is alleged to date to July 2011, when he had a public flap with an A&D Tow driver in Point Richmond. Butt said the driver was prematurely towing a woman's car, and he later filed a complaint, but no wrongdoing was found. A&D owner Williams, 65, countered that Butt was "totally out of line" and had tried to stop one of his drivers from towing a car by "jumping in front of the truck like a Berkeley protester."
Williams said Thursday that his company was cut off by the city after more than 30 years because two council members and some city allies had scores to settle.
"It's a blatant violation of our rights," Williams said. "This is what corruption by local government looks like."
Both Boozé and Butt denied the allegations on Thursday.
"These guys were mistreating people and they didn't meet the basic qualifications, but I had nothing to do with making that determination," Boozé said, adding that he did go to the meeting in 2011 but denying that he made any threats. "I never even opened my mouth."
Butt called the plaintiff "deluded" and said the complaint was baseless. He also denied any conspiracy with Boozé.
"I have no idea what Corky did or didn't do," he said.
Williams said he is seeking damages from the city and the two councilmen. The case could begin initial proceedings as early as May.
"They pretty much bankrupted my company," Williams said.