City officials give towing company 2 citations

Posted on 11 Jan 2007 at 6:21pm
By John Wright Staff Writer

Texas DOT alleges storage site overcharged car owners

The city of Dallas has issued two citations against a wrecker service that may have illegally towed about a dozen vehicles from an Oak Lawn parking lot in April.

In addition, the Texas Department of Transportation has found that the storage facility where the vehicles were towed violated impoundment charge requirements.

The proceedings against wrecker service Cencir Inc. and storage facility Carr Storage Corp. were initiated by Terry Catherman of Mansfield, one of the alleged victims.

Catherman’s vehicle, along with the others, was towed from the Office Depot at 2929 Oak Lawn Avenue a popular place for Cedar Springs clubgoers to park on the night of April 28.

Catherman, 40, said he is pleased that the city and TXDOT have taken some action but fears the companies will end up with little more than a slap on the wrist. Catherman, who was visiting the strip with his boyfriend, said he paid $138 and spent 2 1/2 hours retrieving his vehicle.

“I would like to have back my full refund, and I would like to see them put out of business,” he said.

Unfortunately, neither of those things is likely to happen.

Catherman missed the 14-day window for taking Cencir to small claims court to recoup his losses. And a transportation manager for the city said he probably would not revoke Cencir’s license based on only two violations.

The transportation manager, Gary Titlow, said Cencir was cited because it was not authorized to tow from the property and because there were no signs posted. But the city can’t issue additional citations because none of the other victims has come forward.

“He’s the only one who contacted us,” Titlow said. “It’s not like we go out and search for people to come in here and complain to us.”

A court date on the two citations is pending. If Cencir is found guilty, a judge could impose fines of up to $500 per violation, Titlow said.

Cencir Inc. co-owner Mary Lee Davis did not return a phone call seeking comment. She previously told Dallas Voice that the company towed about a dozen vehicles from Office Depot that night. Davis also insisted she has a contract with Office Depot, which leases the property, but she did not provide a copy to the Voice.

Officials with both Office Depot and property owner Hold-Thyssen Inc. have said they had no contract with Cencir.

City code requires that prior to towing from a private lot, a company must have authorization from either the owner or the party leasing it.

Robert Henderson, an investigator with the Texas Department of Transportation, said Carr Storage had to refund a $20 fee it charged Catherman because it did not keep proper records on his vehicle. While the city prosecutes illegal towing, TXDOT regulates storage facilities.

“They charged $20, but they had not made a sufficient notation or clarification of the services performed in order to charge that,” Anderson said.

“They didn’t do the paperwork like they’re supposed to.”

Carr Storage and Cencir have the same physical and mailing addresses, according to a TXDOT Web site. Cencir co-owner Austin Anthony Carr is listed as the owner of Carr Storage.

E-mail wright@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 12, 2007

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