Cactus Towing rides out probe - East Valley Tribune: News

Cactus Towing rides out probe

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Posted: Friday, September 2, 2005 5:51 am | Updated: 9:24 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Cactus Towing shows no signs of slowing down despite being the subject of a fivemonth criminal investigation.

The Mesa-based company owned by longtime East Valley political figure Lee Watkins plans to seek another, smaller Mesa contract expected to be released next week and is set to ask the Chandler City Council on Thursday for an extension of that city’s contract.

In addition, the company has filed a notice of claim against the Arizona Department of Public Safety, a Cactus lawyer’s assistant said, and intends to appeal a recent court decision that stated the Maricopa County Sheriff ’s Office had probable cause for its March 31 raid, Cactus lawyer Kent Nicholas said.

"We have every intention to have that decision reviewed," Nicholas said.

Meanwhile, the sheriff ’s office is continuing its investigation into allegations of price gouging and fraud, sheriff’s Lt. Paul Chagolla said. Watkins and company general manager Todd DeMasseo deny any wrongdoing, and no charges have been filed.

In Mesa, the City Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday to start accepting bids for the city vehicle contract.

The towing of city vehicles was previously covered as part of a nonemergency towing services contract, which merged with the emergency towing contract. The new contract awarded in July to Cactus, Valley Express Towing and Apache Sands Towing went into effect Thursday.

The city vehicle contract has an estimated value of $30,000, city documents show. The contract is far less lucrative than the main contract — Cactus was awarded two of four geographic zones — and does not involve vehicles driven by the public. Cactus was the exclusive Mesa towing contractor for 10 years and was recently awarded the Scottsdale contract.

DPS recently switched to a fixed-rate, rotation system over the objection of Cactus Towing, which had asked for its exclusive East Valley contract that ended in June to be extended. Attempts to reach DPS were unsuccessful.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James Keppel ruled last month that the sheriff’s office had probable cause to raid the towing offices, a storage unit and the homes of Watkins and DeMasseo. Cactus lawyers claimed the search was overbroad.

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