Police recommending new impound operator after Trouble Shooters uncover improper car sales

(SBG San Antonio photo)

Cars improperly sold from the City of San Antonio’s main impound lot without owners being notified. News 4 Trouble Shooter Jaie Avila broke the story in July. Now he learned exclusively the city will drop the contractor operating the Growdon facility.

United Road Vehicle Management Solutions has had the contract to run the Growdon impound lot for almost 10 years. Now the San Antonio police department is recommending city council replace it with another contractor at the end of the month.

Mary Sue Pate, 77, is one of the 67 owners whose cars were auctioned off in March without the state required notification. Her car was in an accident, but a car can also end up at the city impound if you’re arrested, or you leave it alongside the road.

“I think it’s terrible that they didn’t notify me that they were selling it,” Pate said.

The contractor that operates the Growdon lot is required to wait 35 days and send two notification letters to the owner and lien holder before it can auction off a vehicle. But our investigation found dozens of cases where UR VMS failed to do that.

“Now I have no transportation, I have to depend on other people and I don't like that," Pate said.

As a result of what we uncovered, SAPD brought the weekly auctions to a temporary halt and launched an audit.

"We have the same question you have: ‘How long has this been going on, how widespread a problem is this? Or was it just an isolated incident where some employee for whatever reason just quit doing their job?'" Assistant Police Director Steve Baum said in July.

The contract to run the impound runs out at the end of September. SAPD officials told a city council committee Thursday they evaluated three bids, including one from the current contractor.

While police and council members can’t reveal the winner publicly until next week’s full council vote, the News 4 Trouble Shooters learned SAPD has chosen a new team: Alaniz Wrecker Service here in San Antonio, which is partnering with a San Francisco based firm called Auto Return.

Council members said the new contractors will be using software that will better keep track of paperwork and cars, preventing vehicles from being sold without their owners knowing about it.

“I do honestly believe that the customers will get better service, the accountability that they expect,” said District 9 Councilman John Courage. “They’ll get mail or calls or notified properly."

"These companies are running businesses on resources that are city owned, so there’s a really big responsibility we want to place on these companies," said District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino.

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