Wrongfully Towed? One local man says he was, and Utica officials agree
UTICA - Utica College Hockey fan Mark Rowan, of Rome, has parked in the parking lot of nearby business, "Labor Ready," during hockey games for the past 25 years, without incident. But after a hockey game this weekend-a big incident.
"We rounded the corner and my 13-year-old said, 'dad, someone stole our car!' And I looked and I walked up the street and I looked again and said, 'it's really gone!'" says Rowan.
Rowan's car had been towed by a towing outfit called, "Rapid Recovery". Signs, posted on the Labor Ready building, warn that parking is for Labor Ready clients only, and that violators will be towed at the owners' expense. Because he's parked there so long without incident, Rowan concluded that the signs pertained to daytime business hours.
In addition, Rowan says that, when he got there to park, it was dark out, and the signs were obscured by other cars already parked in the lot. Rowan was upset that he and his family had to trek to a rural, residential street in Marcy to retrieve their car, for what he later learned was more than twice the legal limit that can be charged in the city.
"Whether it's technically or to the letter of the law illegal or not, shouldn't we stop it? Shouldn't we mark that lot tow away zone so that we know not to go there clearly at the road?"
Utica's police chief says the tow truck operator, David Taurisano, is in violation of several city ordinances.
"Three counts of not having a city permit to tow, he was charged with another three counts of towing without the knowledge and permission of the owner and he was charged another three counts for overcharging," says Utica Police Chief Mark Williams, who added that failure to notify the owners brought a new set of problems. "We had some people that were coming in the police station, reporting their cars stolen, because they didn't know their whereabouts, including a pregnant woman who also had a small child with her."
Reached by phone, Taurisano said that he has all the proper licenses and permits to operate a tow service and tow cars within the city of Utica. He also says that, as a private operator, he can charge above the $95 limit for standard tows set by city ordinance. Utica's police chief says city attorneys have told him that's not true; that the ordinance does apply to private operators.
Property owner Dr. Angela Elefante referred questions to her attorney. Attorney Steven Smith, of Utica, said he did not have adequate knowledge of the particulars of the case to comment.