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Drake’s Towing, which the city currently has an exclusive use towing contract, will no longer be used at the end of this year.

In order to resolve a legal battle between Grumpy’s Towing, LLC and the City of St. Helens, city leaders motioned Wednesday, Nov. 20 to end the exclusive towing contract with Drake’s Towing & Recovery, which is now set to expire at the end of this year.

The City will now return to its rotational system with varied towing providers that it has used in previous years, Walsh noted at the meeting.

“It hasn’t been a very high-dollar contract, it’s probably going to cause more legal expenses for the city than the contract’s been worth,” Walsh said at the work session on Wednesday.

The exclusive use contract, which the city entered into with Drake’s on Dec. 5 of 2018, made it so that any towing needs by the City would automatically go to Drake’s.

However, that exclusive use contract has been under question since Jan. 18, when Grumpy’s issued a protest letter to St. Helens City Council and Matt Brown, Finance Director, alleging the council violated an Oregon statutory law when it failed to provide proper notice of their search for contract proposals to provide exclusive towing services, according to a lawsuit filed July 5 in Columbia County Circuit Court.

In that protest letter, Grumpy’s made three requests of the City of St. Helens, the lawsuit notes. According to the lawsuit, those requests were to cancel its procurement of exclusive contract for towing services, to re-instate a new procurement process that complied with the public notice requirements of the statutory law and to halt the current agreement for exclusive towing services between the City and Drake’s.

The City then agreed to receive a proposal from Grumpy’s if it was delivered by Jan. 25, which Grumpy’s then delivered on Jan. 24. The lawsuit then notes that the City Review Panel evaluated proposals from both Drake’s and Grumpy’s and determined Drake’s to have a higher score of 47, compared with Grumpy’s scoring of 43.

The lawsuit states the panel’s evaluation was “biased and bad faith,” resulting in Grumpy’s not being awarded the contract for exclusive use of towing services for the City of St. Helens.

Since then, the City and Grumpy’s have been involved in a legal battle regarding whether or not the City had the right to enter into the exclusive use contract.

The lawsuit makes several allegations surrounding what it terms “unethical, biased and bad-faith treatment by government officials in the contract procurement process.”

The first allegation is that the City failed to give proper notice for a Request for Proposals to invite companies to submit contract proposals in order to provide exclusive towing services. It also alleges the city did not submit public notice in at least one newspaper of general circulation in the area. Further, the lawsuit alleges that Grumpy’s was not directly invited to submit a proposal.

Court records indicate that the City and Grumpy’s have been working to reach an agreement over the past few months.

The City issued its final reply, filed on Oct. 28 in Columbia County Circuit Court. The reply concluded that the original petition would be “dismissed with prejudice,” a legal term that means the case has been dismissed permanently.

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