SD-14: Gary Coe's "inconceivable" moment

Carla Axtman

One of these days perhaps there will be a Republican in Oregon who earns my vote. This guy ain't it.

Gary Coe is the Republican candidate for Senate District 14 (a seat currently held by Democrat Mark Hass). Coe is also the owner of Retriever Towing, a business that at least in part, makes its profits through predatory towing practices. In other words, his towing drivers troll around to various parking lots and tow legally parked cars--and then come up with a lame reason to charge the owner an exorbitant fee for the car's release.

Case in point: Ashley Holmquist. Ms Holmquist's Jeep was legally parked in her space at her apartment complex. One of Coe's drivers seized her car anyway. When the apartment complex and Holmquist contacted Coe's company, they were told it didn't matter that she was parked legally. They couldn't see the expiration date on the pass.

Jenny Hansson, KOIN TV:

"When I showed the guy the parking pass, he said since he couldn't see an expiration, that it was invalid, and he confirmed it was his parking pass," Holmquist said.

So Holmquist had to pay $347 to get back her Jeep. She says this is money that would normally have gone toward rent. Holmquist has a 6-month-old daughter, and she says she'll likely have to return her Christmas presents.

"I had just went and spent every last dime on her first Christmas, because I have a 6-month-old," Holmquist said. "And now it's to the point where I pay my rent or I have a Christmas. So I'm probably going tomorrow to return everything because I don't have money to pay my rent because of it."

Gary Coe, the owner of Retriever Towing, initially told KOIN he was just the "owner" of the business, but had no part in the day-to-day operations. However, in the same sentence, he alleged people like Ashley, "live in an era when people lack acceptance of personal responsibility.”

I don't think "personal responsibility" means what Coe thinks it means. Otherwise he'd have taken "personal responsibility" for the fact that his driver was towing a legally parked vehicle and given her money back with an apology.

Interestingly, Coe's LinkedIn profile states that he's spent his "entire career working to improve the image of the towing industry". His quote on the Senate Republicans press release announcing his campaign says, "Oregon should be a place where families can thrive and prosper".

Apparently he's not actually interested in the real success of either of those platitudes.

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    I'm a little concerned that a mother with a 6 month old child would "spend every last dime" on a Christmas the child cannot possibly remember, though I admit that's a little off the point.

    That said, somebody needs to advise Ms. Holmquist on how to use Small Claims Court.

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    i'd love to see a demographic study of who and where these companies tow. I wonder if it occurs most often to lower class, working folks in less affluent areas. Less chance of running into someone who has the resources or time to fight back, I suspect.

    And as far as Mr. Coe's political ambitions, considering his "I just own the company -- don't blame me" excuse should play well with the base of the Republican party in Oregon. Can't wait for Mr. Coe to complain about government regulations that keep him from towing illegally parked baby strollers.

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    We had a similar incident when we lived in Hood River. Parking is always difficult there. Across from the movie theater was a lot owned by an individual who granted permission for use at night when businesses where closed. The tow company would routinely clear out the lot while you were in the theater and then collect a fortune, at a couple hundred a head, to get your car back . We were astounded to find out this was legal, even letters from the owner of the lot granting permission to park carried no weight with the judge when a group of us took him to court. "There ought to be a law....". Why are we all sitting on our bums as these sharks rip us off. How about EVERYONE sending letters to our legislatures to make the changes necessary to end this nonsense. It is a statewide problem you only learn about when it becomes news because of a human interest story. We get get angry, pay the fine and do nothing and these sharks rake in bundles. Legalized extortion!

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    Talk about a lack of personal responsibility- he doesn't have anything to do with what his own company is doing? Typical GOP hypocrite predator.

    I bet he wouldn't tow any rich Republicans cars even if it was parked in a fire lane in front of a burning school. He'd just say the kids didn't have personal responsibility if they burn to death.

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      Predatory business practices know no political ideology. If this business person has built a business model on taking advantage of legal loopholes and preys on auto owners in parking situations then they should be called to task. They would also be unfit for office in a modern democracy.

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        People of all ideologies may engage in predatory business practices, but only the right seeks to make it difficult to do anything about them.

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    We had a similar thing happen with Retriever back in 1998. My roommate was unloading her car to move into the apartment (with the permission of the manager) and came outside and a retriever tow truck had snaked a cable to the car (this took all of 2 minutes.) He demanded $100 cash as a drop charge- but since my roommate didn't have it on her (neither did the manager), he towed her car- with the rest of her stuff to the yard. The owners helped pony-up cash to get her car back. The owners terminated their contract with Retriever after this.

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    The law was changed in 2007 regarding patrol towing. ORS 98.850 - 98.864, but these guys depend on bullying people into thinking they can steal cars this way. As I recall earlier discussion, these laws are largely ignored, except in those municipalities that have passed ordinances with penalties, which, unfortunately, Portland has not done.

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    Try living in NW Portland around the 21st Street, 23rd Street area. It is a bonanza for these creeps.

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      Retriever stole my car in October 2009 when I was parked legally near 22nd and Lovejoy - claiming it was blocking a driveway.

      Appealed the tow and ticket, with photos of the car in the exact same spot it was before - Retriever didn't show.

      Retriever also attempted to tow my car out of a City Center Parking lot the night of a Beavers game - I chased the driver down and he dropped the car.

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    Once the voters realize Coe owns Retriever Towing and learn more about the company's practices, there is little chance of him being elected.

    Demonize him because of his company's errant ways; not just because there is an R after his name. There are people with a D or an I after their names that also should not be elected to any office.

    Heck, our non-partisan elections even have some poor candidates who should not be elected.

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    One might presume that if Oregon law has been changed the Mayoral race might be an opportunity to bring up the question of which candidate will bring forth an ordinance that makes jurisdiction clear and provides for enforcement penalties to discourage this oaf's business model. Who knows how to contact someone associated with Brady's campaign?


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    I've known Gary Coe for at least 15 years. I've always thought that he owned Pro-Tow not Retriever. That said, I know where he is coming from -- he's a dedicated Republican and that says it all. He's unqualified for the Senate; he doesn't measure up to Mark Haas. As a person, he's a pretty good guy and once, when a gay man we both knew had had his car towed at Christmas I asked him to release the car without payment and he did it. But, again, I wouldn't vote for Gary (or his buddy, Scott Bruun) for anything. And, yes, the car towing rip off business is shamefull.

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    Someone wrote last Friday about Mr. Coe in the Mercury under "I, Anonymous". I got the impression they don't think they like him at all. Unfortunately there is a naughty word in the link (and in the headline and throughout the letter) so I can't link it here. Worth looking for, pure bleepin' poetry!

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    My personal experience would confirm Mr. Kelso's observations. Trespass to Chattel is a term of art that may apply. However, it remains an area that should be remedied by a City and or County ordinance that mirrors state law. What role does a business license play here? Who ever issues a license to do business where a law is being violated should have some accounability. Or do only the wealthy have rights.

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