LOWELL -- City Manager Kevin Murphy has suspended indefinitely the contract of a city tow firm after learning that between 20-25 motor vehicles have apparently gone missing from the company's storage facility.
Murphy made the decision Friday, after hearing numerous complaints about Lowell Fleet Towing, of 26 Tanner St.
"It is high irregular," said Murphy, who added he is very concerned about the reports he's hearing. "We determined the best course of action is to suspend the company's contract with the city until there is a complete investigation."
Murphy's decision marks the second time in less than month he has sanctioned a Lowell tow firm.
The city has under contract several tow firms, each of which is responsible for certain neighborhoods. The contracts, and the tow firms, are overseen by the Police Department.
Police Supt. William Taylor was unavailable to discuss the latest news on Lowell Fleet. He did say in a text, however: "(Lowell Fleet) Suspended while we conduct investigation into vehicles missing from their storage location."
The firm's owner, John Razzino was unavailable comment. Manager Randy De Paulis declined to comment.
Meanwhile, in mid-May, Murphy suspended for 30 days the contract of Stuart's Automotive Inc., of Congress Street, because it did not fully cooperate with the Police Department's internal affairs investigation of veteran police officer Dennis Moriarty.
Moriarty received a letter-of-reprimand from the Police Department concerning his handling of a motorist who was suspected of driving under the influence. The motorist was an off-duty and former Andover police officer, Evan Robitaille. Robitaille was not charged by Lowell police, but was eventually indicted by a Middlesex County grand jury on a driving while intoxicated charge.
It was determined by the Police Department that both Moriarty, and Stuart's, violated several department protocols on the morning of March 11, 2013, when Moriarty responded to the Gulf station at 185 Woburn St., Lowell, for "a 911 call reporting an intoxicated man driving into the lot."
Murphy was planning to meet late Monday with Taylor to learn more details about the allegations against Lowell Fleet. The city manager said it would be premature to discuss the company's future with the city.
In June 2007, just three months after being suspended for failing to answer motorists' calls for service, then-City Manager Bernie Lynch fired Gulbicki's Inc. as one of the city's four full-time towing contractors, following the recommendation of then Police Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee.
Previously, former state Inspector General Gregory Sullivan, in a scathing report issued in April 2006, said most tow-pact applicants appeared to have illegally colluded in their bids for the 2005-06 contracts. In response, Lynch chose contractors for four tow "zones" in the city, plus a citywide alternate for 2007-08, down from six zones plus an alternate in previous years. The move was meant to increase competition among bidders.
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