MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The owner of an auto shop said the incident that led him to fire an employee was blown out of proportion.

The Roseville Police Department used Suburban Auto Body to fix their cars. That four-month relationship ended a week ago when employees were accused of speeding in the patrol cars.

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“It’s been like a storm,” said owner Dennis O’Connell. “It’s terrible.”

O’Connell started Suburban Auto Body 38 years ago. He said he’s never had a complaint about a pick-up and delivery service until last week, when he brought two employees to pick up two Roseville Police vehicles in need of repair.

“Myself and the two employees took off and were going down County Road C. It’s a 40 mph speed limit,” O’Connell said.

He said his employees were driving behind him, and he only lost sight of them for a short time.

Soon after they returned to the Little Canada shop, police called.

“The lieutenant had a phone call, and he might of said two, from citizens about erratic driving,” O’Connell said.

Police said that the citizens complained about marked squads speeding on a stretch of County Road C.

Police came to pick up the squad cars.

“Less than an hour, so it was like, boom. First of all, I was in disbelief, then I was angry at my guys. I did try to talk to the officer. I thought I had a chance we could smooth this over,” O’Connell said.

Suburban Auto Body lost the Roseville Police account.

“I don’t believe he was speeding, but what I do believe is he took off from a stop sign too quickly. He admitted that to me,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell said his employee apologized, but he felt he had to let him go.

“I started thinking about what my responsibility is to my customers, and my employees so, excuse me. It’s devastating,” O’Connell said.

A representative for Roseville Police said from now on, only police staff will drive their vehicles.

O’Connell now has a similar rule: Only he and other senior staff will do pick-up and delivery of vehicles.

Suburban Auto Body also has a contract with St. Paul Police. That will continue.

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STATEMENT FROM ROSEVILLE POLICE

On Thursday, September 4, 2014 at approximately 10:15 a.m., the department received telephone calls from concerned citizens’ regarding two of Roseville’s marked squads being driven at excessive speeds on County Road C from Victoria Street to Western Avenue.

The department immediately investigated and learned the squads in question were being driven by employees of a local business the department uses for vehicle body repair services. The body shop employees had authorization to drive the squads from the city’s public work’s garage to a local shop for repair.

Based on concerned citizen reports regarding driving behavior, a department administrator met with the owner of this body repair business. After discussing the driving behavior of his employees the department opted to end business dealings with this repair shop.

Later the same morning, department staff spoke with the two citizens who reported the disturbing driving behavior and explained what had occurred and who was responsible.

Unfortunately the department isn’t able to communicate the outcome of this event to the other motorists, pedestrians or residents who may have also observed and/or heard of this irresponsible driving incident.

The department recognizes its accountability to the community. In order to prevent future irresponsible driving by contract vendors, the department will be making every effort to use city police/mechanics employees to drive vehicles to local vendors for repair.

STATEMENT FROM SUBURBAN AUTO BODY

Suburban Auto Body is very appreciative for the opportunity to give a statement and the respect shown to us by the news agencies that have reached out to us to get the facts before sharing bad information

To our Knowledge the Facts are there was no speeding or dangerous driving. The report was a quick acceleration from a stop sign and No citations were given. The Owner of our Company drove 2 employees to pick up the damaged vehicles they followed the owner back to our facility in Little Canada.

In our 40 years offering pick-up and delivery to our customers ,this is the first report of this nature .We have strict guidelines of how we take care when transporting vehicles.

It is unfortunate that a valued employee was let go out of respect for Roseville PD and the hopes of continuing our relationship with them.

As a precautionary measure we have reviewed our customer car care driving policy and Guidelines. The utmost respect and adherence to customer property and the needs of that customer is our main priority. Our reputation of making the experience easy for the customer and the highest quality workmanship is the foundation of this business. Our ratings with regulatory bodies are all A+ and our Awards and Rankings for customer service are numerous in the Twin Cities. Thank you to our customers have been calling in with loving support.(www.suburbaneasy.com)

Both Roseville PD and Suburban Auto Body are surprised by the publicity this has received.

Due to the commitment by Roseville to use local family owned companies when possible, The Roseville Chief of Police is open to revisit the opportunity for us to resume our relationship with them at a future date.

We hopeful to get a 2nd chance with Roseville PD and We are grateful to the public and our customers for their understanding in this isolated incident.

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We are a “High Performance World Class Team” of professionals who are honest, compassionate and understanding to the needs of each individual customer.

Jennifer Mayerle