Mayor talks to police chief about cleaning up towing corruption amid FBI probe

Posted at 6:15 PM, Aug 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-26 18:24:01-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — A day after FBI agents raided the homes and offices of two members of Detroit City Council, Mayor Mike Duggan said he met with the police chief because there is work to be done when it comes to cleaning up corruption in the towing industry around the city.

RELATED: FBI raids Detroit city hall, homes of council members in corruption investigation

"We need to finish the job of cleaning out the unscrupulous towers and dealing with this rotation permitting system once and for all," Duggan told reporters Thursday. "This is the third federal investigation in four years that has arisen from this towing operation."

The homes and offices of council members Janee Ayers and Scott Benson Duggan were raided Wednesday by FBI agents and federal officers in agency's public corruption task force.

The homes of Carol Banks, Benson's chief of staff, was also raided.

No one has been charged and Duggan said he will withhold judgment until he sees what develops in the case.

"It's certainly discouraging for the people of the city of Detroit," the mayor said. "It's never good when the feds are delivering search warrants."

Duggan said much of the corruption in municipal towing began about a decade ago when it was decided to ditch the competitive bidding system for tow contracts and create "a permit system with a preferential group of people in a rotation that people don't fully understand," he said. "It is a system fraught with potential for abuse."

In 2017, Assistant Police Chief James White, now the city's police chief, was assigned to clean up the towing system.

The changes included terminating some contracts and changing a practice that allowed a tow company find stolen vehicles.

"We had evidence that it appeared some of the towers were in cahoots with the car thieves. And after we stopped that practice of allowing people to find stolen cars to get the towing fees, the car theft rate dropped significantly in the city," Duggan said.

Duggan said they still need to elimination a preferential rotation and go to open competitive bidding.

"I've asked Chief White, in two weeks, to bring me a plan to eliminate this towing rotation practice once and for good," he said. "And he's in full agreement, that's the next thing we need to do."