Shelby TownshipJuly 10, 2012
MSP report on towing cites ‘lack of oversight’ from Shelby PD
By Brad D. Bates
C & G Staff Writer
SHELBY TOWNSHIP — A report from the Michigan State Police following an investigation of municipal towing calls in Shelby Township cited a “lack of oversight” by the township’s Police Department.
The “supplemental incident report” was dated April 10 and obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests.
It showed that documents provided by the township presented “many inconsistent information and questionable information related to the condition of vehicles and the reasons towed.”
The fact that the “inconsistent” and “questionable” information, which appeared on Certificate of Scrapping forms, or TR-208 documents, was “signed off by the Police Department” was defined as a “major issue.”
“What we needed to do was tighten up the procedures,” Shelby Township Police Chief Roland Woelkers said. “We tightened up things for files and were precise in how we handled that. It allowed for us to have more accountability.”
The report continued to trumpet the action the Police Department took to rectify the procedural issues, “which (had) allowed the system to continue for many years as ‘the way it’s always been done.’”
It defined the department’s actions as “very direct at correcting the issues related to the towing of vehicles and disposition of towed vehicles.”
It went on to cite current procedures that were “consistent with the current (statutes) related to impounded and towed vehicles under Public Act 300.”
“The establishment mentality is what I said we always needed to get rid of,” said Supervisor Richard Stathakis, who was listed as a witness/victim on the report.
“This report confirms that the system in the Police Department under the leadership of my opponent continued for many years,” Stathakis added. “I’m very happy to say, under our new chief, (Roland) Woelkers, he has been very diligent and creative working very closely with his staff in correcting the many issues that we have had with towing.”
Stathakis’ “opponent” is former Shelby Township Police Chief Bob Leman, who is running against Stathakis for the Republican nomination for township supervisor in the Aug. 7 primary.
Leman, whose 10-year tenure as chief ended Sept. 20, 2011, said he views the report as flawed in that it was based on an “independent report” that was commissioned by Stathakis.
“What they’re (MSP) doing is responding to a part of a report made out by the supervisor’s paid consultant,” Leman said. “Allegedly, the report was done in September (2011). (Stathakis is) using this for political reasons this time of year.”
Russell Weipert was originally contracted to audit the township’s vehicle auction processes, which led to an investigation into the towing procedures as a whole.
Weipert’s report was bought to light at the Dec. 20, 2011, Board of Trustees meeting where the board voted 5-2 to revoke the township’s towing deal with its longtime towing contractor, Nightingale Service and Towing, with more than two years remaining.
Following his report, Weipert was contracted by the township to rewrite the towing contract and the request for proposal in regard to the contract, and oversee the bid process for the current towing contract with Ruehle’s Towing.
“My responsibility is not just to the township — they’re the ones paying me — but first and foremost my responsibility is to the resident,” said Weipert of the new towing procedures he was working on earlier this year.
“Everyone needs to get a fair shake out of this contract, and I don’t feel anyone got one out of the last contract.”
Prior to working with Shelby Township, Weipert spent roughly 25 years maintaining the tow yard and policies for the Troy Police Department. In that time, he oversaw such activities as the 2009 re-write of Troy’s towing contract.
“He worked with the Troy Police Department, and I’ve talked to people who worked with him, and he’s a very professional and stand-up guy,” Woelkers said of Weipert.
“He’s well-recognized in the towing industry, and he’s definitely a qualified consultant to prepare a report. And based on the report I looked at, there were some questions that needed to be answered.”
Weipert’s initial report resulted in two “2.5 inch binders” that, according to the state police report, cited “civil issues related to the relationship between Nightingale Towing Service and the township of Shelby,” and “what is believed to be criminal issues related to Nightingale Towing Service and the township of Shelby.”
“The towing consultant, the supervisor and me had a meeting, and based on the towing consultant’s recommendation, (Weipert) said there appeared to some possible criminal violations of towing laws and towing statutes,” Woelkers said.
“We agreed we should have the state police investigate because they enforce most of those towing statutes. We felt they had the expertise and professionalism to take a look at his report and say whether or not there was any criminal activity involved.”
The state police said there was no evidence of any criminal activities, and all the TR-208 forms, which are filed with the Secretary of State to transfer the title of an abandoned, scrap vehicle taken into custody by law enforcement, were signed by the Shelby Township Police Department.
“There was nothing criminal found,” Woelkers reaffirmed of the report’s findings. “It was procedural, and we’ve taken the steps to correct that.”
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