January 26, 2013
WILKES-BARRE – New complaints the city received Friday about LAG Towing Inc. will be looked into as part of a review under way to determine whether to terminate the tower's contract.
City council voted Thursday night to recommend that Mayor Tom Leighton start the termination process, citing concerns the contract had been violated if, as some people claim, the company charged them to reclaim vehicles that had been reported stolen.
The mayor did not respond to a message left for him Friday afternoon.
Some fact-finding already has been done and more will be conducted as complaints come in like those on Friday, said Drew McLaughlin, the city's administrative coordinator. He's going to complete the administrative review and determine how to proceed from there, McLaughlin said.
The mayor, who has the sole authority to terminate LAG's $50,000-a-year contract, has said the city looks into every complaint.
After Thursday night's council meeting Leighton indicated he will proceed cautiously and afford LAG's owner Leo Glodzik III his due process protections during the review. We gotta make sure there's reason to have a formal hearing, and that's what we've been doing, the mayor said.
Glodzik has met with Tony George, council vice chair, who called for the start of the termination process, and provided satisfactory answers to 95 percent of his questions, the mayor said. Leighton added he believed Glodzik will answer the remaining 5 percent to George's satisfaction.
At this week's council meeting, George acknowledged he was surprised by some of the answers provided by Glodzik.
Neither Glodzik nor George returned calls for comment Friday night.
George, however, said in email Friday that he received a new complaint about LAG charging for a recovered stolen vehicle.
Randall Panetta, of Salem Township, confirmed he spoke with George about paying $275 in cash to LAG to get back his stolen car. He said he contacted George after reading newspaper articles about LAG.
Wilkes-Barre police notified him his 2006 Volkswagen Beetle convertible was recovered on South Franklin Street around Halloween of last year, Panetta said. The car had been stolen from Panetta's house, he said.
LAG towed the car a few blocks to its garage on Carey Avenue and stored it for just over a day, Panetta said. LAG refused to accept either a check or credit card, he said.
Panetta said he told the LAG employee, I don't have $275 on me. According to Panetta, the employee replied, Then the car stays here.
Panetta and his wife, who traveled with him to retrieve the car, came up with the cash, he said. Panetta received a receipt from LAG with the notation that the car was stolen, he said.
Panetta's complaint was news to Forty Fort resident Mark Robbins, an outspoken critic of Glodzik.
Robbins said he mailed copies of a complaint alleging Glodzik operates an auto theft ring to the state police and Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis.
For more than a decade, towing contractors and politics have been a volatile mix in Wilkes-Barre.