- Rich Klein
EXCLUSIVE: DOHERTY/CHABOTY SUPPORTING PRESTIGE TOWING IN FED LAWSUIT -DESPITE BUSINESS WITH COUNTY
Updated: Jan 7, 2022
(This is a developing story and will be updated later today)
CHABOTY WAS INVITED BY DOHERTY TO ADDRESS LEGISLATURE TO MAKE SERIOUS CRIMINAL ALLEGATIONS AGAINST SKELLY'S, A KEY COMPETITOR
EXCLUSIVE: Sullivan County Legislature Chair Rob Doherty and County Undersheriff Eric Chaboty have made declarations on behalf of Prestige Towing in a pending federal lawsuit against New York State Police Troop F Commander Christopher Zaba - regarding whether Zaba had the right to create rules for heavy duty commercial towing on Route 17.
The case is in session this morning in the Southern District of New York before Judge Cathy Seibel.
The County has for many years done business with Prestige Towing regarding its agreements with the county to handle towing and evidentiary towing but this lawsuit is not connected with those issues.
In his signed declaration, Doherty affirms that he has been a customer of Prestige Towing for approximately 20 years in connection with his food business that transports Sullivan goods to New York City eateries. And, he stated that he "directs every Sullivan County Farms driver to call Prestige first if the need for a tow ever arises."
The SullivanTimes learned today that Bradley Gruber, a nephew of Doherty's, is an employee of Prestige Towing.
The suit - initially filed in February 2020 and continuing today - alleges that Zaba can't legally enforce a policy he created about "leveling the playing field" when it comes to the rights of private companies to decide which towing companies can be used for heavy tows of vehicles on Route 17. Prestige is being represented by the Westchester County law firm Keane & Beane in White Plains. (Disclosure: Keane & Beane is a former public relations client of editor Rich Klein). Zaba is being represented by the State Attorney General's Office.
In recent years, Prestige has been given most of the County towing and evidentiary towing business, much to the chagrin of multiple competitors in the region. But when Skelly's won bids for both county towing and evidentiary towing in late 2019 for 2020, Sheriff Michael Schiff said he would not sign the evidentiary towing "agreement" due to the allegations that his own office made against Skelly.
On April 16, 2020, just two months after Chaboty began aiding Prestige in its case against Troop F, he told the Executive Committee of the County Legislature that Skelly's Towing has committed "serious felony charges for insurance fraud," adding that he was taking those allegations that day to Acting District Attorney Meagan Galligan. "My recommendation would be to extend ..go back to the last winner and extend that for 90 days and in the interim, rebid it, " Doherty said. The rebidding has not taken place yet, according to the County.
Thus far, Galligan - who campaigns regularly with Schiff and Chaboty - has been silent about Chaboty's allegations and if there is any investigation into Skelly's. Owner Michael Skelly has since closed his business and moved it and his family out of New York State.
Chaboty said in his declaration attached to the federal lawsuit, in part:
"Absent circumstances involving an imminent health and safety risk, it is my
opinion that the NYSP lacks the legal authority to force a vehicle Owner, over the Owner’s objections, to accept recovery and towing services from a vendor chosen from
NYSP’s rotational list. This creates a situation fraught
with legal perils, and one that is utterly unnecessary and
unrelated to promoting public safety."
In 2018, Troop F seemingly tried to end the monopoly enjoyed by Prestige, based on court documents . In 2010, Prestige sued Troop F under similar allegations. It lost a decision at the Third Department. That court held:
"... Rather, respondents relied upon evidence that (owner Sean) Brooks failed to report an accident and misled a state trooper in order to obtain permission to use a highway U-turn so he could improperly solicit a tow for a disabled vehicle, and that another improper attempt to solicit a tow by a Prestige employee on the same day resulted in a confrontation that distracted a trooper and compromised officer safety. In our view, the foregoing provided a rational basis for respondents' removal of Prestige from the tow list, particularly in light of Prestige's two prior suspensions from the tow list for similar conduct. Absent any evidence, however, that Marty's was involved in the incidents that prompted Prestige's removal or that it had ever been removed from any of the three police tow lists on which it has been included for more than 20 years, we agree with Supreme Court that there was no basis for the removal of Marty's from the tow list."
The SullivanTimes has started to receive some of the documents in the case and will post excerpts as they become available. (This is a developing story)