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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Commission to allow certain felons to obtain towing permits

The Gainesville City Commission passed an ordinance Monday night allowing people convicted of certain felonies to obtain towing permits.

The second reading of the ordinance passed unanimously with little discussion to a nearly empty room.

The commission had already debated the ordinance two weeks ago on its first reading.

People convicted of capital or first-degree felonies, sexual battery or violent felonies involving guns or knives or causing great bodily harm will still be barred from towing permits forever.

"I'm hesitant to allow people who have committed violent crimes to take this public role," Commissioner Jack Donovan said at the last meeting.

People convicted of all other violent felonies will be eligible for permits after a 10-year waiting period.

Gainesville Police Department Lt. Pete Backhaus said this would include things like throwing a person to the ground while snatching a purse.

The 10-year waiting period is also required for people convicted of felonies or first-degree misdemeanors directly relating to cars, such as car theft, carjacking or chop-shop involvement.

There is a five-year waiting period for driving under the influence.

Debate on the ordinance arose from complaints from tow truck operators, in particular one from Superior Towing who spoke at the last commission meeting.

At age 18, he got in a fight that resulted in a felony conviction.

It's been 20 years since the conviction, and he's been a tow operator for 13 years. The former ordinance would have left him out of a job.

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The commission attempted to pass the ordinance quickly out of interest for tow operators such as him.

"Sometimes when you throw that net out, you catch good people," said Backhaus at the last meeting.

Ron Combs, assistant city attorney, said at the last meeting that he was concerned some people can never be rehabilitated.

"Is anyone in particular rehabilitated after 10 years, after 15 years, after 20 years?" he said. "I have no personal knowledge of that."

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