September 1, 2014

Standish towing company alleges discrimination by sheriff’s department, 911

Posted

BAY CITY — The owner of a local towing company has filed a lawsuit against Sheriff James Mosciski, Undersheriff Donald McIntyre and former 911 Director Steve Wuelfing, claiming that his company was treated unfairly when wrecker services were needed.

Brad Eddy of Pinconning, the owner of Berthiaume’s Collision and Towing in Standish, filed a complaint last September in federal court against the current and former county officials. Mosciski, McIntyre and Wuelfing responded in October, and the case is currently scheduled for an evaluation May 23.

Mosciski said prior to him taking office as sheriff in 2008, the 911 advisory board established a wrecker policy, and Eddy felt as though he was not receiving fair treatment in the policy.

“Before I came on they had a wrecker policy, and it was all set up by the 911 board,” Mosciski said. “He figured he wasn’t getting his fair share amount of wrecker calls, so he decided to try to sue us.”

Attorney Kim Higgs, who is representing Eddy, said his client spoke up about some issues within the policy, which resulted in his company no longer receiving wrecker calls from the sheriff’s department.

“The issue is simply he had made critical comments about the sheriff’s policy, the tow policy, and subsequently to that time, it’s our position that they retaliated against him and stopped giving him calls,” Higgs said.

A copy of the complaint filed in the United States District Court Eastern District of Michigan shows that in February 2010, Eddy told the Arenac County Board of Commissioners that another towing company on the wrecker list was in violation of state and local legal requirements.

According to Higgs, the county switched its wrecker service policy in 2010, giving reporting officers discretion when calling out for a tow truck. The complaint shows that this allegedly occurred in September, and Eddy began to make allegations of favoritism in November 2010. Eddy also attended board of commissioner meetings in 2012 claiming other companies were receiving preferential treatment.

Higgs said Eddy was receiving calls regularly when the policy operated on geographic boundaries and on a rotational basis, but the issue started to arise when officers were given discretion as to which wrecker service they could call.

“There’s just a total lack of accountability in the present system,” he said.

In May during the case evaluation, Higgs said a panel of three attorneys will evaluate the case and make a recommendation pertaining to a settlement. Higgs said both parties will present briefs and make arguments to the panel. Parties can either accept or reject the case evaluators’ proposal, Higgs said.

Shaina Reed, attorney for the county officials involved in the case, could not be reached for comment.

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