ENGLEWOOD, N.J. — An Englewood councilman who championed efforts to amend the city's towing ordinance had his own car hooked after police discovered it had gone unregistered for a year, according to a taped recording obtained by Daily Voice.
Councilman Charles Cobb identifies himself, gives a police dispatcher his license plate number and asks why the vehicle was towed from in front of his house on the call, recorded at 10:30 a.m. last Dec. 11.
The car was towed at 6 a.m. that day because its registration expired in January 2016, the dispatcher tells Cobb on the call, a recording of which was obtained by Daily Voice through an OPRA requeset.
Cobb argues that there weren't any tickets on the car.
"I'm the guy who wrote the ordinance," he tells the dispatcher. "So I'm just gonna tell you that whoever it is, you all need to contact them and bring that car back here.
"I'm a councilman. Whoever got the tow, they won't have their towing contract."
At that point, the dispatcher switches the call to Sgt. James Morgan, head of the department’s Traffic Division.
"This is Councilman Charles Cobb. Who towed my f-----‘ car from my house? There's no tickets on the car whatever, and you're gonna tow the car at 6 o'clock this morning?"
Sgt: "They towed it because your car's been unregistered for just short of a year."
Cobb: "You towed the car off of the street -- no tickets. The car's never been ticketed or anything."
Sgt: "The car has a ticket now. Yeah."
Cobb: "Oh, you ticketed and towed the car today, and we've had cars up here for months and you haven't done anything."
Sgt: "I don't understand what you're saying."
Cobb: "You're not doing your job...."
Sgt: "We're not doing our job? Very obviously we did our job."
Cobb: "The same instance that people have complained and you've done nothing. And then at 6 o'clock in the morning you got to come and ticket the car and tow it at the same time?"
Sgt.: "Well, what would be a good time for us to to it? You tell us."
Cobb: "Wait a minute -- whoa-oa-oa. I'm saying to you: This whole thing happens all over the street and you do nothing. And all of a sudden because we had this tow ordinance discussion, this is what I get?"
Sgt: "Personally I take offense. If you're insinuating we're targeting you, we towed 12 cars last night, if that's what you're saying."
Cobb: "That's what I'm saying."
Sgt: "You're saying that we're targeting you?"
Sgt: "Well, I take offense to that."
Cobb: "I don't care what you think."
Sgt: "I don't care what you say, then."
Cobb: "OK, then fine."
Sgt: "OK. No sense talking about it."
Cobb: "This conversation is over. And y'know what? We'll deal with it."
Sgt: "Good luck with that."
Cobb: "Huh? Good luck."
Sgt: "OK, bye."
A week later, the City Council approved an amendment to the towing ordinance that requires them to respond to call within 20 minutes and establishes a 25-car minimum capacity for their impound lots so that they’re not leaving vehicles on the street.
Towers also can’t have a previous felony conviction or a driver’s license suspension within the year before they apply for a city contract.
Towers who violate the 20-minute rule or miss at least three calls could have their licenses suspended, under the new ordinance.
The amended ordinance also increases how much towing companies that operate in the city can charge.
Debate and deliberation leading up to the vote was extensive, including an hours-long special meeting.
Police urged 50-car minimum sizes for lots. The council agreed on 25 so that a local company could continue working for the city.
The towers got into it – with one suing another for claiming that competitors targeted minorities and stole his tows.
Residents raised concerns over possible conflicts-of-interest and asked that the towing companies disclose any relationships they might have with any city officials.
Cobb agreed to the need for “full transparency,” so that the requirements and expectations were clearly spelled out for towers as well as for residents and merchants.