Updated: Nov 9, 2022
When protecting Columbus from crooked businesses, City Attorney Zach Klein said he is unflappable.
“The City of Columbus has zero tolerance for criminal enterprises that moonlight as businesses,” boasted City Attorney Klein. “Not here. Businesses that perpetuate fraud and deal in stolen property will be held accountable, they will be prosecuted, and if necessary, they will be shut down.”
City Attorney Klein made those remarks last week after his office filed a public nuisance complaint against a South Side scrap yard that the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles uncovered more than 80 cases of alleged fraud involving vehicle titles, stolen cars, and parts.
The company is Columbus Auto Shredding Inc. The company has a contract with the City of Columbus to dispose of junk motor vehicles. Robert Clark, Director of Public Safety, signed the one-year deal with Columbus Auto Shredding Inc. on June 21, 2022. The contract has an option for three one-year renewals.
According to terms of the contract, the company will pay Columbus $100 per vehicle to remove and scrap. These are not city-owned vehicles but are vehicles towed to the impound lot that were never reclaimed by their owner.
Did City Attorney Klein realize the city has a valid contract with Columbus Auto Shredding Inc? Given the severity of the allegations against the company, do city officials have reservations about honoring the deal? I emailed these questions to the City Attorney's Office and received this response from Pete Shipley, the Office’s Communications Director.
“The Best person to reach out to for this would be George Speaks. He’s the Deputy Director over at Public Safety and would be able to speak on the contract that the department signed. His email is GESpeaks@columbus.gov, and phone is 614.645.4200.”
I emailed the same questions to both Director Parks and Deputy Director Speaks. I received this statement from Asst. Director Glenn McEntyre. “This vendor is not in breach of the City contract. The allegations do not concern junked cars from the City impound lot. We are not planning to terminate the contract at this time but are keeping a watchful eye on the pending litigation.”
The BMV’s investigation began last July when Groveport Police discovered that the company was paying towing companies for vehicles with Ohio titles that did not match up to the vehicles being scrapped. The company was also allowing vehicles without proof of ownership to be discarded.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for November 14 at the Franklin County Municipal Court. Klein said his office will ask the court to impose strict requirements on facility staff to verify Ohio vehicle titles and to cease some operations until the safeguards are implemented.
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