Image: A select group of Montgomery County towing companies have created the perfect situation where they control the Montgomery County Commissioners Court’s towing policy and push their competition out of business. A secret cache of documents from the so-called “towing advisory board” to the Commissioners Court has revealed their intentions to knock business competitors out of what had previously been free markets.
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe and The Woodlands, June 10 – The Golden Hammer has obtained a secret cache of documents memorializing a meeting of the Montgomery County “advisory board” meeting wherein the same towing companies who pushed for passage of the so-called “towing ordinance” are now controlling the “advisory board” to push their competitors out of what used to be a free market for business competition among towing companies for non-consensual tows. Only Montgomery County Attorney B.D. Griffin, who has expressed concerns about their attempt to create a monopoly in violation of state and federal antitrust laws, stands in their way.
What the politically-connected members of the “advisory board” are now seeking is a new 1-zone rotation with only four to six towing companies in the rotation for the entirety of Montgomery County, as one member of the “advisory board” told The Golden Hammer on the condition of anonymity and an Assistant County Attorney has confirmed on the same condition. Of course, the members of the “advisory board” would advise the Commissioners Court to appoint their companies to the rotation in order to eliminate all of their competition for non-consensual tows.
In other words, only B.D. Griffin, the Montgomery County Attorney, stands in the way of a regulation-induced monopolistic “towopoly” to protect politically-connected towing companies from competition.
The Montgomery County Commissioners Court opted into “crony capitalism” at its very worst and begun to play the game of “Towopoly” with intense regulation of towing companies and the destruction of free market enterprise. The formal action occurred at the February 12, 2021, Commissioners Court meeting on a unanimous vote.
The Commissioners Court mandated a new towing rotation plan which divided Montgomery County into four towing districts roughly corresponding to the four Commissioners Precincts, North (Precinct 1), South (3), West (2), and East (4). The Commissioners Court mandated fifteen (15) towing companies in the South, West, and East, and twelve (12) towing companies in the North. Instead, the Sheriff’s Office, directed to implement this intensely bureaucratic-overregulation of free market enterprise, has issued a towing rotation slightly different as shown immediately below.
Precinct 4 Montgomery County Commissioner James Metts, who said on February 9, 2021, in a Commissioners Court meeting, “We’re not in the business of regulating commerce. That’s not our job. It’s all about public safety.” But no law enforcement official could answer what the. “public safety” concern might be to require the implementation of the “towopoly.” No law enforcement official, County Commissioner, or the County Judge could provide even one instance when a long line of tow trucks at an accident scene created any sort of injury, death, or danger. There are no statistics available on any “public safety” concern with respect to tow trucks.
The primary advocate for the “towopoly” has been Milstead Towing’s Amy Milstead, who secretly appeared in Austin in 2015 to lobby for passage of the local legislation which allowed the Montgomery County Commissioners Court to establish the towing ordinance which specifically favors certain politically-connected towing companies over others. The local advocates for a “towopoly” have been the Knox family, especially T.J., and Slinky, who own towing companies and storage yards in East Montgomery County.
The towing rotation has 11 companies in the North, 14 in the South, 18 in the East, and 17 in the West. The general rule is that no towing company may be a part of the non-consensual towing rotation – primarily for vehicle accidents – unless the towing company is the owner of a vehicle storage facility in that particular zone. Interesting, the Adamick family has three towing rotation spots in the North zone, the politically-connected Knoxes have at least two of the East zone spots, and Milstead Towing has at least two of the South towing spots.
According to this newspaper’s confidential sources, there are several other family-owned towing companies who enjoy several spots in the towing rotations. The three citizens who spoke on March 9 – Harshaw, Richard Weible of S&B Towing, and Clay Bass of Bass Towing & Recovery – confirmed the favored treatment, which politically-connected towing companies, such as T.J. Knox’s companies in east Montgomery County, have received as part of the so-called rotation.
“It seems like the towing policy was written to protect Amy Milstead and TJ Knox,” several towing company owners told this newspaper on the condition of anonymity. Milstead even went to Austin in June, 2015, to testify before the Texas House of Representatives in favor of a local bill which authorized the Montgomery County Commissioners Court to enact a towing ordinance. Milstead represented to the House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures. Milstead told the Committee members when she testified on April 6, 2015, in favor of the towing ordinance bill, that she was there on behalf of the towing companies of Montgomery County. Several of those company owners objected yesterday and told this newspaper “I didn’t even know she was trying to get that bill passed.”
On April 13, Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack fell into a trap the politically-connected towing companies lay for him when he moved to create the towing “advisory board” consisting of the very towing companies under the towing ordinance’s regulations. Noack announced, “The folks in south county are so excited about this that Amy Milstead got the people together and nominated Amy Milstead and Joe Kearns.” In other words, those who control the Commissioners Court want to regulate themselves.
The membership of the “advisory board” consists of:
Precinct1 1- Sahe Adamick (Adamick Wrecker Service), Charlie Miller (Miller Towing and Recovery)
Precinct 2- Richard Wible (S&B Towing), Clint Bass (Bass towing and recovery)
Precinct 3- Amy Milstead (Milstead Towing), Joe Kearns ( Quick Tow Wrecker Service)
Precinct 4- David “Slinky” Knox (Saddle Creek Towing), Dalton Knox (EMC Wrecker Service)
County-Wide – Todd Stowe (Stowe’s Wrecker Service).
Slinky Knox, a member of the “advisory board” reported to a small group of towing companies, that the May 25, 2021, meeting focused on a discussion that the members of the “advisory board” want the County Commissioners to cap the number of towing companies that may be in the rotation, which, of course, is precisely how regulatory monopolies form. Although Knox didn’t report it in his summary of that “advisory board” meeting, this newspaper has confirmed that Knox and others want to move to a 1-zone system with between four (4) and six (6) towing companies total, so that, of course, the “towopoly” will thrive.
During the meeting, there was discussion of the fact that City of Conroe has presently capped the number of towing companies which may provide service there. They acknowledged, however, that the only reason Conroe is able to get away with such a monopolistic cap is that “they haven’t been sued yet.” The “advisory board” hopes that at the one year anniversary of adoption of the towing ordinance the County Commissioners Court will opt for a far more restrictive monopoly to knock out most of the competition for the politically-connected towing companies, who are the members of the “advisory board.”
Both the Commissioners Court’s action and the Sheriff’s Office’s implementation of the towing rotation policy would seem to violate Section 2308.209 of the Texas Occupations Code, which mandates:
“The commissioners court of a county in which a list is maintained under Subsection (c) shall adopt policies to implement this section in a manner that ensures:
“(1) equal distribution of nonconsent tows among the towing companies that perform nonconsent tows in the county…”
What has become very clear is that the Commissioners Court’s adopted policy and the Sheriff’s Office’s implementation don’t even come close to an “equal distribution” of nonconsent tows among the towing companies. Rather, the politically-connected towing companies in the East (TJ Knox), South (Milstead), and North (Adamick) have successfully cornered the towing markets and driven out many towing companies who had previously competed against them. As one towing company owner told The Golden Hammer, “Just look at Captain Dunlap’s ‘Tow Company Zone Assignments’ [shown above]. You can see it’s not an equal distribution, because there are 11, 14, 18, and 17 companies in each of the four zones. That’s not equal!”
On June 1, 2021, Adamick wrote to her fellow “advisory board” members that the “advisory board” will seek to convince County Attorney B.D. Griffin to “cap each [towing] district.” She noted, “Again the cap idea problem lies with the County Attorney, not MCSO.”