WPB firefighter in bizarre business dispute

By Lindsay Cohen
Posted by Rachel Leigh

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - The hoses were cut, the vacuums stolen, and the money removed.

Andrea Harper knew someone had been vandalizing her West Palm Beach car wash; what she didn't expect, though, was that it would be her own business partner - who also happens to be a local firefighter.

"If he owns the property outright then it would be okay," Harper said. "But I own the property, as well, and it's hurting me and affecting my livelihood. I can't make a living."

Harper says the proof is in surveillance video - taken four times over the past three months at Kingdom Car Wash on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard. In the video, a man is seen cutting hoses, removing lock boxes, and emptying change from the machines before driving away.

That man, in addition to being Harper's business partner, is West Palm Beach Fire Lieutenant Donnell Williams. In one of the videos Williams is wearing a West Palm Beach Fire Rescue t-shirt.

"[The city] really needs to take some kind of look into [it]," Harper said. "He's a lieutenant in the West Palm Beach [fire] department. I don't believe they condone this."

Police say they consider the issue a civil matter, and not a criminal one, because both parties are legal partners in the business.

"We're aware of [the situation]," said city spokesman Peter Robbins. "I'm sure [Williams'] superiors are aware of it, but, at this point, it doesn't appear he's done anything illegal."

Meantime, Williams defends his action, saying that as part-owner, he has every right to do what he wants at the car wash. But, he says, Harper forced his hand after she stole money from the company, he alleges.

"She wants to rape and pillage," Williams said. "I have tax consequences."

He also maintains that she's withholding important tax documents from him.

Harper says she won't hand over the tax documents until Williams pays what he owes. She also denies the allegations that she's stolen any money from the business, and says Williams walked away from the company in October because the company wasn't turning a profit. Williams says that's not true.

Harper argues that regardless of the situation, there's no reason to sabotage the business. She believes the two should settle the matter in court.

"I can't work; I can't pay my bills, because this guy is vandalizing my business," she said.

Kingdom Car Wash opened in February 2007. Harper said it cost about $1.3 million to purchase the land and build the facility.