August 2, 2004
Mesa’s efforts to renew a city towing contract are on hold indefinitely while officials try to figure out what to do after rejecting two rounds of bids.
Critics claim the process has been tainted by negligence and favoritism. City officials deny it.
City Attorney Debbie Spinner is scheduled to meet this week with the company that has made the allegations.
And city officials said they don’t know when the issue will be resolved.
At issue is a three-year city contract to haul privately owned abandoned vehicles and disabled city vehicles.
In 2003, the city sought bids because the contract with Cactus Towing of Mesa was set to expire. Cactus has won the contract for the past eight years.
An affiliation of companies called United Road Services Southwest of Phoenix submitted the low bid of $58,800. Daryl’s Towing of Mesa bid $68,172 and Cactus Towing, $87,450.
The city rejected the first round of bids after Dave Udall, lawyer for Cactus Towing, complained privately to Joe Padilla, an assistant city attorney, and Sharon Seekins, Mesa’s city purchasing director, that there was incomplete information on certain charges in the request for bids.
Udall and Seekins could not be reached for comment. An employee at United Road Services declined comment.
Seekins originally told the City Council she threw out the bids because there was a typographical error in the request. Later, Seekins said there wasn’t an error — technically. Instead, she said she had intended to change some wording in the request for bids but forgot.
Seekins asked for a second round of bids. Cactus Towing bid $54,600, and Daryl’s Towing bid $92,580. Seekins advised the council to give the contract to Cactus.
Last month, the City Council decided it needed more time to sort out the issue. In the meantime, the council voted to extend the contract with Cactus Towing.
Chad Gammage, sales manager of Daryl’s Towing, is accusing the city of corruption and favoritism.
Gammage told the council last month that an investigation was needed by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. He said he called the office himself but got nowhere.
Gammage claims that Udall received special treatment and that the city violated state procurement laws by throwing out the first round of bids.
"At this point, I don’t have any indication there’s a problem," Spinner said.
She said Udall raised an issue about one of the terms of the contract, which prompted city officials to decide to ask for new bids.
"To my knowledge, he was not insisting on a rebid," she said.
Gammage and Daryl Raab, owner of Daryl’s Towing, have asked Mayor Keno Hawker to recuse himself because Udall, a longtime Mesa lawyer, Lee Watkins, president of Cactus Towing, and Todd Demasseo, general manager of Cactus Towing, all contributed to Hawker’s re-election campaign. The three gave a combined $900, city records indicate.
Hawker has refused, saying he has complied with the law by filing the required financial disclosure forms.
Hawker couldn’t be reached for comment.
Council members Janie Thom, Tom Rawles and others have questioned the fairness of the city process.
"I don’t know what’s going to happen next," Thom said. "It seems to me the process was very questionable."