Western News

1HomePageMap small w 0816Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in California, NevadaOregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii, Alaska and Wyoming

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Rick’s Auto Body of Missoula for nine serious violations of workplace safety and health standards. The employer faces $51,100 in proposed fines as a result of an August inspection following a fatal accident at the facility.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced Nov. 15 that Safeco Insurance Company has agreed to pay a $900,000 fine and reform its approval process for homeowners and auto insurance coverage. The company was fined for the unapproved use of credit scores to deny homeowners coverage, failure to follow its own approved rating guidelines and other auto rating violations.

"This case is a prime example of why market conduct exams are an important tool in insurance regulation," Commissioner Jones said. "When we find that insurers are not complying with the law, we are able to take appropriate action and protect consumers."

Market conduct exams are audits of insurers' rating and underwriting or claim handling activities. Based on a routine exam covering periods of 2006 and 2007, the California Department of Insurance found that Safeco, now a subsidiary of Liberty Mutual, was using credit scores and credit components in underwriting homeowner insurance. The exam revealed that in 26 instances homeowners were declined due to their credit rating.

The exam also revealed that in more than 64,700 instances Safeco failed to follow its own approved rating guidelines, including inconsistently applying good driver discounts and discounts for operating a four-door vehicle. As a result of the findings, Safeco issued refunds for a three-year period, resulting in approximately $3.1 million being refunded to California policyholders.

Other non-compliance violations revealed during the exam included more than 38,000 instances where homeowners were not provided with the California Residential Property Bill of Rights and general rating violations where Safeco was using an unapproved rating model.

On a sunny day in the City by the Bay more than 100 golfers representing every segment of the collision industry played 18 holes at Harding Park in San Francisco at the annual FinishMaster tournament on Oct. 9. This breathtaking TPC course is considered to be one of the elite municipal courses in the country, featuring pristine greens and lush fairways throughout. The annual Harding Park Tournament was originally hosted by the San Francisco chapter of the California Autobody Association, but when that chapter folded several years ago, FinishMaster took over the sponsorship to continue this tournament, now celebrating its 16th year.


On Nov. 10th, the day after their annual Gala fundraiser, a safe containing approximately $6,000 in cash and other valuable items was stolen from the Boys & Girls Club of El Sobrante, CA. Obviously shocked by the theft, word of the tragedy traveled quickly through the Bay Area and Mike’s Auto Body stepped up and saved the day, by donating money to the organization and covering the loss.

Billy Zeier the Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of El Sobrante couldn’t believe that someone would steal their safe.  “We were riding a high after raising $30,000 at our ‘We Are the Children of the World’ fundraiser,” Zeier said. “It was a huge success after almost a full year of work, so all of us were pleased. But, then the next morning we find out that the safe was gone and we all just felt deflated.”

But then the phone rang a couple days later, when Sal Contreras, Sales & Marketing Director for Mike’s Auto Body was calling to deliver some very good news. “I was actually in a meeting when Sal called,” Zeier explained. “I told my people, I’ll call as soon as I get a chance and they said, no—you should talk to him right now. When he told me that Mike’s Auto Body was going to cover the loss, we were obviously ecstatic! What an amazing thing they’ve done for us! Mike Rose and the people at Mike’s Auto Body took a bad situation and turned it around. This is a great lesson for our youth, because it shows that some people really care.”

Sal Contreras is a Boys & Girls Club alum himself, so he knows the value of the organization and how it shapes young lives. “When I was growing up in Richmond, Ca, I was a member at the Richmond Boys & Girls Club,” Contreras said. “So, when Mike Rose called me and said let’s cover their loss, I didn’t hesitate for a second before making the call. Billy was obviously surprised and when we went there to present them with the check, all of the kids couldn’t stop smiling. The El Sobrante Boys & Girls Club is a great program and they really push the educational aspect. Staying in school is one of their main messages and that’s why many of their members have gone on to attend college.”

Ragen Ortland, Operations Manager at Mike’s Auto Body was happy to be in a position to help the Boys & Girls Club of El Sobrante. "When we heard about the incident with the Boys & Girls Club, we were appalled that someone would steal from a non-profit and especially a non-profit that benefits children,” Ortland said. “My father (Owner Mike Rose) told us that he wanted to replace the missing funds and we immediately agreed with his decision. This time of year is difficult enough and to have something like this happen can be very disheartening. We felt that replacing the missing funds was the least we can do during this holiday season."

The Boys & Girls Club of El Sobrante was established in 1958 when a group of parents were concerned about the lack of facilities and activities for boys in the neighborhood. In 1998, the Girls Club, previously a separate organization located in the building next door, joined the Boys Club to create the Boys & Girls Club of El Sobrante.  

Members participate in a variety of programs within the five core areas of Arts; Education & Career Development; Sports, Fitness & Recreation; Health & Life Skills; and Character & Leadership Development. The club is affiliated with the Boys & Girls Club of America (BGCA), with 4,000 clubs nationwide and representing 4.1 million children.

The Boys & Girls Club of El Sobrante serves children ages 7-18 from West Contra Costa, including El Sobrante, and its surrounding cities of Richmond, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Pinole, Hercules, Crockett, and Rodeo. At the beginning of the school year, members set personal, school, and career goals, which are reviewed at the end of the school year.

Mike's Auto Body is a 41-year-old family-owned business with 11 locations in Concord, Walnut Creek, Lafayette, Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood, Richmond, Fairfield, and Napa.

On November 22, detectives arrested a 47-year-old man at his home after a search warrant was served at the home and stolen property taken from the club was found inside, according to Contra Costa County Sheriff's spokesman Jimmy Lee. The man is out on bail and awaiting trial and innocent until proven guilty.

The California Department of Insurance Fraud Division announced Dec. 5 the arrest of three-of-six individuals suspected of running a glass harvesting ring-filing more than 1,000 false insurance claims for windshield repair totaling nearly $100,000. The suspects were arrested on multiple felony charges for grand theft, false personation of another, and filing fraudulent insurance claims. Using actual consumers' insurance policies, the suspects allegedly submitted fraudulent claims for automobile insurance windshield chip repairs to multiple insurance companies between May 9, 2011 and May 24, 2012.

The Boyd Group Inc. has announced the opening of three new repair centers in Arizona, located in the areas of Gilbert, Scottsdale and Tempe. All three locations were previously operated under the name of Certified Collision Centers.