Sheriff, towing company owner still at odds

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Robert Anderson has spoken up at two recent quorum court meetings, painting himself as the victim of a sheriff carrying out a personal grudge. State regulatory officials, however, fully endorsed the actions taken by Carroll County Sheriff Jim Ross.

When Anderson addressed the quorum court in July, he admitted to driving “a little bit fast” before a deputy pulled him over in June. He also admitted that he immediately got out of his vehicle and refused the deputy’s commands to return to his vehicle. Following that encounter, Ross removed R & R Towing from the revolving list of eligible tow companies that dispatchers use when a vehicle is towed or impounded.

Anderson returned to the quorum court Oct. 19, renewing his complaint about Ross’s actions. At that meeting, Anderson explained that the Arkansas State Police still call him for towing. He also said the Arkansas Towing and Recovery Board (ATRB) has a 15-day suspension for a first offense, and R & R Towing had been suspended for almost six months. At that meeting, the justices of the peace expressed some concern, but said they had no control over an elected official. They asked Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Allgood to check into the state regulations.

In an Independent interview, Chief Deputy Jerry Williams described Anderson’s situation in more detail. On the afternoon of June 2, Deputy Lt. Blake Ringberg stopped Anderson on U.S. Hwy. 62, east of Green Forest. Anderson was driving a pickup pulling a trailer and was clocked at 80 in a 60 miles per hour zone. Anderson immediately left his vehicle and accosted Ringberg, refusing the deputy’s orders to get back in the truck.

Anderson said he was on his way to a tow call and continued to argue with the deputy about the traffic stop. Anderson called Ross and complained during the encounter, and the sheriff promised to review the traffic stop with his deputy. When Ringberg wrote a citation, Anderson initially refused to sign it. The deputy advised him that his other option was to be arrested and post bond, and Anderson signed the citation.

Williams also shared other factors that influenced Ross’s decision. After the traffic stop, Anderson called the sheriff’s office to speak further with Ross. When he was told the sheriff had left the building, Anderson launched into a profanity-filled tirade as the secretary patiently tried to handle the complaint. “I understand that officer might have been a little upset about me going a little fast, but I wasn’t just driving down the highway to be speeding, so *** him,” Anderson told the secretary.

Later that day, before Anderson was suspended from the wrecker rotation, he responded to another call involving a deputy. Body-cam footage recorded a similar profanity-laden rant as Anderson recounted his story to the deputy on the scene.

After consulting with the ATRB, Ross sent Anderson a letter, informing him of a six-month suspension from the county rotation list. The letter recounted the details of the traffic stop, and Ross expressed his reasoning for the suspension. “During every contact with the public, my deputies endeavor to display that professionalism and respect for the citizens we serve,” he wrote. “As the Sheriff, I expect the same level of professionalism from you, your employees, and any other entity working alongside my deputies. You have not met that expectation.”

The letter ends with a hope for a return to a “pleasant, productive, and professional relationship with my office,” after offering Anderson the opportunity to “officially request reinstatement to the Carroll County rotation following the end of this suspension.”

Steven Rogers, director of the ATRB, confirmed the stance taken by the sheriff. He said state law gives cities and counties the right to set their own rules for tow companies. Those rules can include rates and response times, as well as setting other standards. Rogers described a place on a rotating call list as “a privilege.”

In response to Anderson’s claim that his suspension should only have lasted 15 days, Rogers said Anderson had misread a statute. That statute establishes options in case a local entity asks the ATRB to intervene. Rogers said he could not remember a law enforcement agency asking for that kind of intervention.

In a telephone interview, Anderson said that he came to the quorum court in October even though his suspension was about to end. He still maintains that Ross acted illegally, saying, “The people in Carroll County need to get a handle on” the situation. He said the sheriff’s actions cost him considerably in the past six months.

The county handles dispatch services for Berryville and Green Forest, so Anderson’s company did not receive calls from those cities, either. Anderson said he had not decided yet how to proceed with the provision for reapplying to the county rotation. He had some updated insurance papers to file with the sheriff and said that might serve to convey his intent to resume service with the county.

In an Independent interview last week, Allgood said he would have information for the November quorum court meeting. Allgood said the JPs only asked him to check on the tow board’s regulations.

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