Tuesday, May 29, 2012

TDLR Commissioners Meeting Public Comment - May 29, 2012

As a former tow company manager, I respect that TDLR wants to work with honest and law-abiding towing companies and storage facilities for society's benefit.  But I submit that a recent regulatory interpretation by TDLR punishes even the honest and law-abiding towing and storage companies.

Storage facilities are supposed to accept people's credit cards.  That's fair.  But a new regulatory interpretation requires them to accept even credit cards that belong to folks OTHER THAN those retrieving their vehicles.  Such transactions increasingly result in charge backs and penalties assessed by financial institutions, regardless of the legality of the tow.  Is it fair or wise to subject honest and law-abiding towing and vehicle storage companies to this financial hazard?  I ask that you please reconsider this, and remedy it for society's benefit.  Otherwise Texas will be deprived of parking space availability, because nobody will want to tow noncompliant parkers.   

At the same time, though, I have NO sympathy for any dishonest, noncompliant towing and storage companies here in Texas.  Such tow pirates make it harder for honest and compliant competitors to remain in business.

And yet TDLR makes it so difficult for their tax-paying victims to get justice against them.   Why is that, TDLR?

Do victims who complain to TDLR get told what the status is of their complaint, corresponding investigation and administrative trials are even after they have submitted all the necessary information to TDLR about their ordeals?    Not usually.  If victims receive any notice at all, it's
usually very vague and uninformative.  And by the time TDLR lets them know what to submit, too much time might have passed to efficiently gather what TDLR's investigators need to know to make a sufficiently expeditious investigation.  Why not put a list of evidentiary requirements on a highly
relevant part of your website so that victims will know what they'll need promptly, in order to make their complaints more informative to TDLR as soon as possible?    Or does TDLR merely want to receive lots of complaints so that it can preach to our government that TDLR needs and somehow deserves more of our tax dollars?  

I will oppose that every time because I still haven't gotten a satisfactory answer to this question:  What do you give taxpayers in exchange for their hard earned money?  

Can such victims or other members of the public check the status of their complaints online at TDLR's website?  No.   

Are such administrative trials handled even remotely expeditiously?  No.

Why should the accused get to continue depriving their victims of their right to a speedy administrative trial?    It takes about a year, if not longer, for an administrative trial to emerge through TDLR...assuming that TDLR doesn't settle for smallish settlement amounts beforehand  in order to
avoid having to do the work that taxpayers pay TDLR to do.    You know that such predatory companies charge their victims more if their victims request extensions to pay for the right to retrieve their vehicles.  So why does TDLR nevertheless allow postponement after postponement without charging the tow pirates and storage conspirators more, too?  How is this discrepancy fair?  Why doesn't TDLR want to get these dishonest companies out of Texas commerce sooner?   

  Texas tax-payers' tax dollars still pay TDLR lots of money each year.  What do they get in return if TDLR does little more than prosecute a few cases now and then, only to enter into payment plans with companies that owe substantial debts for their noncompliance?    TDLR is well aware that
such companies' partners then sneakily set up or otherwise collaborate with new companies that evade having to make the payments, while the original offending companies gradually and quietly go out of business.  One such example is Merlin Transport, which owes TDLR over $21,000 after having lost its administrative trial because it couldn't afford to keep paying its lawyers lucrative fees.    Is Merlin's owner Nick Massey not working behind the scenes nowadays with Tarrant County Abandoned Vehicle Removal Inc., though?    Talk about re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic... 

What is TDLR best at?  The answer appears to be:  getting a hefty paycheck paid to some of its higher-ranking employees, at taxpayers' expense.    Taxpayers pay TDLR, so TDLR doesn't mind looking the other way when it comes to collecting its fines.  What do taxpayers get in return for
their trust and investment in TDLR, though?    No wonder TDLR is so nontransparent.  TDLR has plenty to hide, and it isn't pretty...   

Why doesn't TDLR propose regulatory reform to make it tougher for crooked tow pirates and storage facility co-conspirators to sneakily and quickly re-emerge from the ashes?    The problem CAN be remedied even before the next legislative session gets underway, and TDLR already knows this. 

Cities such as Dallas already have the municipal ordinances in effect for preventing such instances of predatory evasiveness among tow pirates and their vehicle storage co-conspirators who seek to reincorporate.  I have lawyer friends who can confirm this if you don't believe me.    

But TDLR makes such proactive municipalities' work a lot less efficient when TDLR won't even shut down such dishonest, noncompliant companies by terminating their licenses so that such municipalities in Texas can more efficiently fight their partner’s re-emergence as fresh new entities. 

Is TDLR so co-opted by noncompliant towing and storage facility companies (some of which have representatives serving on TDLR's committee) that TDLR consequently can't even adequately suspend the licenses of noncompliant companies?  If a company is in a payment plan supposedly trying to make amends for its past offenses, why not make that information available online for the public's protection?    Municipalities want such information. Why not make it readily available?     

People have been killed throughout Texas as a result of unlawful towing practices.    I and some allies have increasingly popular websites dedicated to exposing misdeeds regularly committed in the Texas towing industry.

The problem is not going away, and neither are we.  But if TDLR won't carry its share of the weight too, then it's time for TDLR to get out of the way and stop costing taxpayers so much.  You cost more to taxpayers than what you collect in fines, especially in terms of hidden costs AND societal costs from you’re not doing an adequate job.    

Should we ask to have TDLR's budget spent elsewhere, instead?  If not then how about TDLR's answering our questions with helpful DEEDS, not mere words, followed by laziness and a
lack of transparency?

Pat Johnson
Texas Towing Compliance