A lawsuit has hit the desk of the City of Wichita Falls accusing it of contributing to the creation of a towing monopoly within city limits.
Jody Randolph Wade, and Jody Wade Enterprises, LLC are also named as Defendants on the suit. They too face allegations of corruption within city limits.
The Plaintiff in the case is Gary Mills, the owner of USA Auto Sales in Wichita Falls. He claims to have been victimized by the City’s actions, and his business was also impacted by those allegations.
“I’m filing this lawsuit against the City because I feel like it is a monopoly,” said Mills. “I feel like the citizens are being way over charged for what they're getting. It’s probably three or four times what it used to be.”
Mills is talking about non-consent towing, what happens when wreckers are called to an accident or parking violation. It used to be done on a rotation basis between different companies. It’s how towing businesses throughout the city stayed afloat.
However, that rotation has ended, according to the lawsuit filed in the 30th Judicial District Court. Now wreckers from Big daddy's Wrecker Service, Donnie’s and Collins Motor Company have taken over. All three are owned by Jody Wade Enterprise LLC.
City of Wichita Falls ordinance of 26-761 forbade a towing company or principal of towing company to own an interest of more than one towing company on the non-consent towing rotation, according to court documents.
Throughout the time period of 2009 and 2015 Wichita Falls City Councilors made a number of exceptions in city ordinance to aid the enterprise, according to documents in the lawsuit.
“There is a pattern,” said Doyle Ross Jackson, Mills’ attorney. “You can see that Mr. Wade, either as an agent or on his own behalf, has asked the city council to make changes in regards to non-consent towing. Every time he's asked for something he has received it.”
The changes in ordinance allowed all three of his services to get in on the non-consent rotation.
And eventually an exclusive contract was granted by the City with Jody Wade Enterprises, LLC.
The contract was for exclusive non-consent towing operations in exchange for providing an impound lot for the city and holding auction services, according to court documents.
“If the city gives a contract to one provider and one provider only, that pushes a lot of other tow companies out of business,” said Jackson.
It’s an action that has not only hurt Mills and his business but other companies that have been around for 50 plus years.
“When the city put me out of business they got three other companies at the same time,” said Allen Palmatary, owner of Al’s Automotive.
Al said the lack of city rotation has caused a number of businesses to fail.
“Right now we are just doing what we can do,” said Palmatary.
The lawsuit also included additional intentional actions taken on the Plaintiff by Jody Wade Enterprises, LLC or Jody Randolph Wade. Mills was arrested for trespassing at a city auction, according to court documents.
Mills secured permission to attend the auction, but Wichita County Deputies were instructed to arrest him upon entry, according to the lawsuit.
“Plaintiff is in the business of buying and selling used cars. Denying Plaintiff the right to attend city auctions impedes his economic opportunities,” according to the petition by Mills’ attorney.
Newschannel 6 reached out to city leaders regarding the allegations. Both the City Attorney’s Office and Mayor Glenn Barham said the city cannot comment on pending litigation.
Officials at Jody Wade Enterprises, LLC also declined comment. But the attorney representing both Jody Randolph Wade and Jody Wade Enterprises, LLC did send in a response to the courts.
Jeff McKnight of the Law Offices of Jeff McKnight P.C. submitted documents saying the “Defendants deny each and every allegation of Plaintiff’s original petition.” It later went on to read “Defendants pray the court, will dismiss the Plaintiff’s Petition.”
The City Attorney of Wichita Falls has 50 days from the date of the lawsuit filed to send a reply.
Gary Mills’ attorney, Doyle Ross Jackson, said the suit is still a long way from the court room. But they plan to spend the next six months to a year gathering additional evidence, for what he says could be a strong case.