FOX25 Investigates: Reports of favoritism among MassDOT towing contracts

FOX25 Investigates: Reports of favoritism among MassDOT towing contracts

BOSTON — FOX25 Investigates is digging deeper into a new report revealing MassDOT and state police played favorites when awarding towing contracts along the Mass Pike.

The preferential treatment cost the state money, so FOX25's Kerry Kavanaugh tracked down MassDOT Highway Administrator Tom Tinlin to find out what changes are being made as a result.

The report specifically cites Perfection Towing of Watertown as having received preferential treatment.

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Tinlin said the contract in question was awarded in 2013, under prior leadership.

"We went through a new selection process with a new selection team all, of which have first responder capabilities, incident commander capabilities to start grading these providers off the service," he said.

The Inspector General began investigating the state's procurement process after receiving a complaint in 2014.

The team that reviewed the bids for the Pike consisted of three MassDOT employees and three members of the Massachusetts State Police out of Troop E.

They found committee members lacked adequate experience, training, and preparation to evaluate bids.

The review also found that the bid committee had prior interactions with the Perfection Towing and lack impartiality.

Perfection Towing still services the pike, but this isn't the first time they've come under scrutiny.

FOX25 Investigates first reported in July that a driver who worked for Perfection Towing at the time was under investigation for allegedly sexually assaulting two female customers. State police temporarily suspended their contract, but it was reinstated.

The report said Perfection Towing's bid was so low, just $1 a tow, that MassDOT thought it was a typo. At that rate, the state would only reap 15 cents per tow.

MassDOT said concerns raised by the Inspector General's report have been addressed.

"It's been done fair, it's being done impartially and people will be judged on the merits of their application," Tinlin told FOX25.

Mass State Police issued the following statement:

"Unless the location of a disabled motor vehicle presents a clear emergency requiring immediate towing, State Troopers ask motorists if they have a preferred tow company. Tow companies affiliated with AAA, obviously the preference of club members, have negotiated a lower rate and are paid directly by the club rather than requiring the motorist to seek reimbursement after the fact. Perfection Towing is the AAA-affiliated company that is closest to the sector discussed in the IG's report, and the tows diverted to Perfection Towing were the result of consumer requests to reap the benefit of their AAA membership."

The Inspector General also sent FOX25 a statement:

“Our Office’s review found that MassDOT officials did not treat bidders for the towing contract in an even-handed way. Taxpayers and the public are best served when companies compete for government work on a level playing field, bids are evaluated fairly by impartial experts, and qualified companies offering the best terms receive the contracts. We hope MassDOT’s new procurement of towing services meets these standards.”