A new Wisconsin state law cuts police out of the towing process.
FOX6 News first exposed this problem in February, and West Milwaukee police ordered a towing company at the middle of the story to close up shop.
They did, but a few days later, they were back in business in the city of Milwaukee. And, apparently, up to the same old tricks.
Shaun Brayden and the company he operates are towing people’s cars under questionable circumstances and charging more than state regulations allow.
He has basically “gone rogue” and is towing cars without “probable cause.”
In February he agreed to talk about it. “And apologized for being mean to you and hanging up the phone and stuff,” Brayden said.
However, three months later, his appearance has changed (he shaved what had been a full beard), but his behavior is all too familiar.
When the FOX6 Investigators tried to ask him a few questions on his way out of a small claims court hearing, he immediately became agitated.
“If you would just answer these questions honestly, this would be easy and it would be over,” said FOX6 Investigator Bryan Polcyn.
Brayden’s response? A profanity laced tirade.
Dan Johnson, President of the Wisconsin Towing Association had a different view. “This is not the image that we want to portray,” he said.
“If someone like this is going off rogue on their own, that’s certainly not the type of individual that would be reflective of our association,” Johnson said.
If there’s one thing Johnson would like you to remember, it’s this: Shaun Brayden is not a member of the WTA. And neither is the company he operates – Cars, Inc.
Johnson says it wasn’t the towing industry that asked for the change in state law Cars, Inc. seems to be exploiting. It was property owners.
“They just want a vehicle taken off their property,” Johnson said.
Earlier in Wisconsin, police had to ticket a car before it could be towed from private property. A new law that took effect last summer cuts police out of the process. That makes it easier for landlords to deal with nuisance vehicles.
However, it also gives towing companies virtually unchecked authority to tow cars, especially if they have a standing contract to patrol a particular parking lot.
This is what happened to Jerome Hollis and his girlfriend, Courtney.
In March, Hollis was driving when his car broke down. He pushed it into an O’Reilly Auto Parts parking lot and asked if he could leave it there overnight, since the part he needed wasn’t in.
“I talked to the manager at O`Reilly’s to ask him can I leave my car there? He said, ‘yeah, cool,’” Hollis said.
An employee named Kevin Young promised to leave a note on the car, so it wouldn’t get towed.
“I’ll just write you a note saying that, you know, ‘don’t touch this car’ or whatever,” Hollis recalled the worker saying.
Apparently, Kevin forgot to put the note on the car. And Cars, Inc. towed it away.
The next morning, Hollis showed Brayden a permission letter that Kevin later wrote for him. Brayden didn’t care. He wanted $311 to release Hollis’ car.
“Do we stand here all night or do we cause trouble to get police involved?” Courtney asked.
When Courtney tried calling the police, they told her it was a civil matter.