St. Louis police board seeks federal investigation of scandal

Friday, September 19, 2008 | 2:51 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis police board is asking federal investigators to look into whether a contracted towing firm shorted the city of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The board on Thursday asked the U.S. Attorney’s office in St. Louis to investigate the handling of the contract with St. Louis Metropolitan Towing. A police spokeswoman on Friday declined further comment. A phone message left with the towing company, St. Louis Metropolitan Towing, was not returned. A spokesman for Mayor Francis Slay said the mayor would release a statement later Friday.
For years, police contracted with St. Louis Metropolitan Towing to tow and impound cars. The contract was ended in July after police revealed that the firm allowed many officers — and former Police Chief Joe Mokwa’s daughter — to borrow the seized vehicles, sometimes for weeks or months at a time. Mokwa retired amid concerns raised by the scandal.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday that the towing firm kept nearly $700,000 owed to the city, and that police failed to act on evidence in their own files. The newspaper said its investigation found that police leaders ignored auditors’ advice to keep a close watch on the deal with St. Louis Metropolitan Towing.
Police said in a news release that contracts called for the towing company to pay some fees to the department and other fees to the city. Some payments were received, but the department said a recent comparison of towing records to towing payments “revealed the possibility that additional monies could be due.”
The police board “has expressed its concern to investigators that there may have been violations of the contract’s terms of payment,” board president Chris Goodson said in the statement. “We have just as many questions as many of the citizens we represent. We want to determine what happened and how, to ensure that no entity, be it the Metropolitan Police Department or the city of St. Louis, was shortchanged.”
Since ending the contract with St. Louis Metropolitan Towing, police have used the city’s own towing services.

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