County Sheriff Brian BeGole in U.S. District Court (in the Eastern District of Michigan’s Southern District) by Robert Lepley, the owner of Lepley & Sons Towing in Owosso, was dismissed with prejudice, and without fees and costs, on Monday, March 9. Lepley charged, in June 2019, that BeGole’s actions, both individually and in his official capacity as sheriff, had violated the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

   Lepley had requested $25,000 for “economic damages in the form of loss of income” and “non-economic damages in the form of mental anguish, suffering, humiliation, embarrassment, lifestyle disruption, fright, shock and loss of sleep,” which resulted from BeGole “unfairly favoring” Allstar Towing & Repair and “wrongfully removing” Lepley & Sons Towing from the county’s non-preference towing rotation.

   Sheriff BeGole has served with the Shiawassee County Sheriff’s Office since 1996 – the same year Lepley started his towing operation – and according to BeGole, the towing rotation “has always been a bone of contention.” Having witnessed consistent infighting amongst the operators over the years, and due to a recent increase in complaints against operators of overcharging and poor response times, BeGole entered office in January 2017 with a plan to “level the playing field for our tow truck operators and protect customers from being taken advantage of.”

   The non-preference towing rotation policy Sheriff BeGole implemented in 2017 required that, in addition to being insured and licensed, wrecker companies must operate on properties zoned commercial or industrial, with road-side signage identifying each place of business and fences and security cameras for vehicle storage/impound areas in order to participate in the rotation, pending inspection.

   Lepley was removed from the rotation on Nov. 27, 2018 after being cited for multiple rotation policy compliance issues. According to the Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial, Lepley was cited on Oct. 8, 2018 for lacking adequate signage and interior and exterior cameras, and for being improperly zoned. Sheriff BeGole added that Lepley also failed to produce proof of insurance, despite being given two months to do so. Lepley alleges he was not asked to verify his insurance until May 14, 2019, more than five months after his removal.

   In response to the judgment, Sheriff Brian BeGole issued the following statement:

   “United States District Court Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis dismissed Plaintiff Robert Lepley’s complaint with prejudice and without any award of attorney fees or costs. In other words, the case can’t be brought back to court, and Mr. Lepley and his attorney were not awarded any money.

   “There was absolutely no merit to this lawsuit, and Mr. Lepley’s own deposition is what led to the case being dismissed. I administer policy. I don’t personally assign which tow trucks are sent. Dispatchers use computers to aid them in that process.

   “Dispatch records clearly show Allstar Towing does not receive preferential treatment. The county is broken up into five different districts to increase efficiency and promote fairness. Allstar is the only towing company that operates a functional heavy duty wrecker and has two locations in this county (one business in the north part of the county and one in the south). I can’t control how many businesses towing companies run as long as they comply with policy.

   “What I do know is that the towing rotation keeps things pretty well equal. The facts don’t lie and we have proven that. For whatever reason, one [local reporter] chooses to mislead the public and print inaccurate information time and time again.

   “The reason Mr. Lepley was removed from the towing rotation was his refusal to comply with the towing policy that was established. When I took office in 2017, the wrecker rotation was plagued with problems and riddled with complaints from citizens and tow companies alike. We had to make some real changes to make it more dependable, honest and fair for the public. I understand some people don’t like change. I admit, I don’t always like change, but this situation could have been easily resolved had Mr. Lepley complied with a few small items.

   “It’s ironic Mr. Lepley sued me for allegedly giving preferential treatment to another tow company when in reality, it is one of the things we created the policy for and have prevented. It is worthy to note the lawsuit’s dismissal was not contingent on Mr. Lepley being placed back on the towing rotation, although it is something I would consider if he is willing to comply with the policy and assure us his complete cooperation.”

Towing Lawsuit Against Sheriff Dismissed With Prejudice was last modified: April 18th, 2020 by Karen Elford