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Tow company owner asks judge to hold Pittsburgh police chief in contempt

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Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, 1:22 p.m.

The owner of a Hazelwood towing company on Tuesday asked a federal judge to find the city and Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper in contempt of the judge's Sept. 27 order temporarily banning the city from enforcing a new towing policy.

The General Assembly passed a law in July that prohibits tow truck operators from showing up uninvited at accident scenes to solicit business from motorists with disabled vehicles. Harper issued a policy to his officers in August implementing the new law.

John Halbleib, owner of Halbleib's Auto, claims in his lawsuit that federal motor carrier laws preempt the state law and Harper's policy. U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Mitchell approved an agreement between the city and Halbleib in which the city agreed to not enforce the policy until the issue is decided.

Halbleib says in his contempt motion that city police are still chasing his operators from accident scenes when they show up uninvited. He wants Mitchell to order Harper to formally rescind his previous policy and announce that fact to all officers at all shifts for at least three days so it's clear tow truck operators can solicit business at accident scenes.

John Bacharach, one of Halbleib's lawyers, and Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, declined comment.

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