CENTRALIA, IL — A local tow company operator has filed a federal lawsuit against former Centralia city officials and the police chief, claiming they violated his civil rights when they chose to remove his company from the City tow rotation. Jerry Patten and his company Jerry & Sons Repair-Towing, filed their suit Tuesday in federal court naming Centralia Police Chief Greg Dodson, former Mayor Herb Williams, former City Council members Howard Jones, Andre Marshall, and David Sauer, and current Council member Robert Smith individually and in their official capacities.
The suit states that in August 2020, the council members named as defendants in the case decided to terminate Patten’s participation in the tow rotation list maintained by the Centralia Police Department, based upon a Confederate Flag displayed outside Patten’s home in Sandoval. However, the suit claims the council members lacked the authority to make that decision and began to pressure Police Chief Greg Dodson to do so and on August 18, 2020, he was notified his company was no longer on the list. Then on January 23, 2021, Jerry’s Towing was again denied participation on the list. Patten claims in his suit that the decision to exclude him from the list was a violation of his First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights.
He seeks both compensatory and punitive damages in his case, along with attorney’s fees and any other relief a jury finds just and proper. In a press release issued after his initial decision, Chief Dodson said he feels the Confederate Battle Flag is to the African American Community what the Swastika is to the Jewish community.
Jerry’s Towing had previously been removed from the rotation when the City of Centralia decided to only use businesses within the city and his business is located in Central City. He was ultimately returned to the rotation list after public outcry and city debate.