From now on, Frances says, the two tow companies may add that $40 surcharge only if they use a flatbed in public view with a "city agent" present to verify they're telling the truth.
The change came about last week after Beach Towing hauled away Miami businessman Allyn Alford's car after he misread a sign. When he went to pick up his car, he noticed Beach Towing had added a $40 fee for using a flatbed or dolly to tow his car. When Alford obtained surveillance video from a nearby business, though, it clearly showed the tow-truck driver didn't use either of those devices.
So Alford sent a written complaint to the Miami Beach City Commission. Commissioner Ricky Arriola passed the message along to the city's parking director, who promised to investigate the matter.
Last Friday, Frances told Alford that Beach Towing explained the fee by claiming it had, in fact, used a dolly — behind the locked gates of its lot, when no one else was watching.
"Regrettably, there is no way to corroborate their assertion," Frances wrote.
To close that loophole, Frances said that "moving forward, both towing service providers, Beach Towing and Tremont Towing, may only assess a flatbed/dollies fees when it is engaged at the scene of the tow while in the presence of a city agent for their notation."
The two tow companies basically run a legal racket in Miami Beach, where they donate heavily to politicians and allegedly pay people to watch lots and call the companies whenever they see a car to tow. Thousands of cars are towed every year in Miami Beach, often within minutes of drivers parking wrongfully.
Thanks to Alford's work, drivers unlucky enough to get their ride taken will at least be spared a bogus $40 charge.
Ralph Andrade, an attorney for Beach Towing, did not respond to messages about the new flatbed-fee rule.
Alford will receive a refund for the fee. Though Beach Towing maintains it used a dolly, it said it told Frances the company would repay Alford's $40 anyway.
"I’m just happy they enacted a change," Alford said. "Going forward, vehicle owners will be charged fairly in relation to this fee."