CHICAGO — Drivers have lodged 464 complaints over the last 21 months against the notorious firm Lincoln Towing, almost all of them alleging illegal tows, according to data provided to DNAinfo by state officials.
About 45 percent of those complaints were made about tows that took place during the first nine months of 2017, according to the data provided by the Illinois Commerce Commission through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The commission is weighing whether to take the firm's license because of complaints that range from overcharging drivers and moving cars that are properly parked to invoicing improperly.
During the 21-month period, Lincoln Towing hauled away about 25,000 cars, said attorney Allen Perl, who represents Lincoln Towing, owned by Protective Parking Service Corp.
The number of complaints prompted by those tows is "minuscule," Perl said, and proves that the firm's reputation as being out to snag cars from legally parked drivers is false.
"You don't need to take my word for it. Do the math," Perl said. "That is 0.4 of 1 percent."
More than 38 percent of those complaints were dismissed outright without further investigation, officials said.
"That gets glossed over," Perl said, adding that many of the complaints are based on technical issues, such as a typo when a driver records a license plate number.
In 35 cases, the company voluntarily decided to give the driver a refund, according to data from the commission.
"I think that was pretty nice of us," Perl said.
Another 104 complaints — or 22 percent of the total — were referred to the commission's attorneys for investigation, according to the data from the commission.
There are 148 open complaints pending against the Uptown-based company that inspired songwriter Steve Goodman to call them the "Lincoln Park Pirates" in the 1970s.
Administrative Law Judge Latrice Kirkland Montaque could recommend to the commission's board that Lincoln Towing's license be revoked after a lengthy hearing process concludes. No date for the next hearing in the case has been set, Perl said.
One of those pending complaints was filed by Cheryl Reed, a former Chicago journalist who is now a professor at Syracuse University in New York. Her car was hauled away by Lincoln Towing during a party Sept. 15 celebrating the publication of her debut novel, "Poison Girls."
Lincoln Towing has a contract to tow cars from that lot from 11 p.m.-6 a.m. Monday-Sunday, Perl said.
Reed did not have special permission from the owner of the property to park there after 11 p.m., although the owner of the bookstore said she could leave her car in the lot, Perl said.
The property owner and bookstore owner are not the same person.
"I fail to see what my driver did wrong," Perl said.