Competition Towing & Recovery was reinstated Wednesday to the city’s towing contract following a suspension that began in mid-May after concerns emerged about an election fraud case involving its owner, who has since been cleared of criminal wrongdoing.
Allen Wilson, who owns Competition, located on South Apperson Way, was present in City Hall when the Kokomo Board of Public Works voted unanimously to reinstate the company – a development that likely brings an end to what has been a personally and financially destructive ordeal for Wilson.
Board of Works President Randy McKay, prior to the vote, cited the Howard County prosecutor’s office decision not to charge Wilson with election fraud because of insufficient evidence to show any sort of intent to defraud the election process.
McKay then recommended the board reinstate Competition to the towing contract; a unanimous vote in favor of the move followed his recommendation. Competition’s reinstatement was effective immediately.
Following the decision Wilson said he was happy for his employees and “happy for the business and for my name to be cleared.”
Wilson said he will be able to put one tow truck driver back to work who he had to lay off during Competition’s suspension from the towing contract.
While Wilson was unsure how much money the suspension cost Competition, he said the company lost around 10 tows per week, along with “collision jobs” that were previously brought to the shop.
The board’s decision Wednesday was the expected outcome, in large part because Board of Works members had already voted earlier this month to approve Competition as part of the 2019-2020 City Wrecker Towing Services Contract, as recommended by Police Chief Rob Baker.
Towing contracts run from October to October.
It had been the Kokomo Police Department who had requested Wilson’s company be suspended from the towing contract while the voter fraud case was pending.
That situation kicked off May 6, one day before Election Day, when Wilson became the focus of an email sent to the Howard County Election Board describing his “fraudulent vote” cast in the Democratic primary election.
The email alleged Wilson illegally changed his voter registration on April 2 to his business’ address, 1101 S. Apperson Way, inside city limits, in order to vote in the municipal primary for his friend and mayoral candidate Kevin Summers.
It is illegal in Indiana to register to vote at a place of business. Knowingly submitting a fraudulent application for registration can be charged as a crime, according to Indiana state code.
Wilson was previously registered to vote at a Howard County address outside city limits, although that registration was canceled three years ago. The address listed in the email and shown on previous registration documents is no longer owned by Wilson and was sold in 2015, according to property records.
Wilson has in fact lived at three separate homes inside Kokomo city limits since 2015 and thus is legally qualified to vote in a Kokomo municipal election, according to documents presented at a Howard County Election Board hearing in June.
It's a point his attorney, Brent Dechert, used to claim Wilson had no reason to knowingly commit voter fraud, since he could have registered at his home address and voted in the primary election.
Dechert has instead said Wilson registered to vote using his business address by mistake and had no motivation to defraud the election when he cast an early ballot in the Democratic primary.
The three-member Election Board, however, decided June 20 to forward the case to the Howard County prosecutor’s office, which chose not to pursue charges.
Wilson was cleared of criminal wrongdoing because of “insufficient evidence to show an intent to defraud,” according to Prosecutor Mark McCann.
Competition is one of three companies, along with Johnson’s Towing & Recovery and Martin Wrecker Services, on the city’s towing contract.
“As part of the contract, what they agree to do is tow city vehicles for free or reduced price, so we get that service from them. And for that service, we put them on the wrecker contract,” explained KPD Maj. James Calabro in previous comments.
“Then they tow from accidents or abandoned vehicles and things like that.”
The companies then bill people they have towed.