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In addition, the Internal Revenue Service filed a tax lien of $51,261 against Booth in 1993. Booth, who lives in Leawood, says he doesn't discuss his personal business affairs.
"When you work with people like Joe Booth, you don't know if he's lying or telling the truth," says Pete LaCock. "In the towing business, there are so many ins and outs and ways to hide things. You never knew if things were on the up-and-up." LaCock says Booth was no different from other characters associated with tow operations. "They were all kinda redneck and some were shady, slick. They all carried guns, and that's what scared me about those guys. Joe is a nice guy, but you never knew where he was coming from."
Richard Howard, a claims manager for First American Insurance Company and former body shop owner who went to Southwest High School with Booth, says Booth's difficulties are not entirely representative of the King of Towing.
"There's hardly anybody that knows more about the tow business than Joe," Howard says. "It's a pretty tough business, but Joe was able to bring some semblance of respectability to it.
"There's no middle ground. You'll find that most of the people that will detract from him are people who are in the same business. He's an extremely fierce competitor. What I hear is he will try to dominate the field and run over them at that particular day and time."
"Everyone says I do things crooked," Booth says. "I don't. You want to know why people don't like me? They can't outrun me to the ball game.
"I can't bad-mouth people," Booth adds. "That's not my style -- that's their style. I do more than piddle around towing cars. People who bad-mouth me want to go to the Hall of Fame, but they don't know how to use their mouths right."
Earning Kansas City's tow-operation consulting job last year tasted like a major victory to Booth, who had routinely clashed with city officials during his towing days but managed to keep himself in their favor. Some observers say his friendship with Loar was a conflict of interest in the $20,000 bid process. But Booth gloats. In August, he mordantly announced Kansas City was among the worst places for towing in America.
Not surprisingly, Booth's report directed criticism at the city's three departments entangled in the responsibility of running the tow lot -- Neighborhood and Community Services and the finance and police departments. But he says wreck-chasers' prowling the city streets contributed to an average tow bill of $302 in Kansas City, more than three times the $98 average in St. Louis.
His recommendations to the city were on par with Mohart's and Funkhouser's studies: Pass a law to end wreck-chasing and turn over the city tow-lot operation to a private firm.
Booth says he was satisfied with the thoroughness of his report. Others were not.
"We paid him, but it wasn't anything we didn't know," Mohart says. "Look, he's a tow-service guy that has been around a long time. He approached us. He probably isn't going to be getting anymore money out of the operation. If somebody was going to line their pockets, they would do it long-term, wouldn't they?"
The investigations conducted by the Neighborhood and Community Services Department and the city auditor duplicated much of his work, Booth says. He contends he was the first on the block to suggest the city turn over its tow-lot business to private firms and adopt no-solicitation laws to curb wreck-chasing. Booth says the auditor's numbers underestimate the depth of the city's financial losses. By Booth's rough calculations, between $1 million and $2 million annually slip through the holes in the tow lot's chain-link fence.