Late yesterday afternoon, we received an email from Jeffery L. Graves, Associate Vice President for Legal Affairs for The University of Texas at Austin. This email was a response to an email we sent Gregory Fenves, President of The University of Texas at Austin on September 15, 2015 reference criminal behavior by the University’s Parking & Transportation staff with regards to the towing, relocating and booting of vehicles parked throughout the campus without the vehicle owner’s or operator’s consent.
The original email stated:
I want to bring to your attention the injustice that continues on the UT Austin campus by members of the UT PTS staff members, to which is a criminal offense, targeting students, visitors and alumni.
1. Not one person who places a boot on a vehicle regardless the reason fails to hold the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation Boot Operator License;
2. Prior to home football games, vehicles are being relocated to a parking lot which is not a licensed vehicle storage facility, another criminal offense;
3. There are no legal tow signs posted at any campus parking facility or garage, another criminal offense;
4. PTS staff have not followed the State mandated bidding process for their tow contractor, as the previous tow contract, Elite Towing & Recovery refused to disobey State Law by requiring a vehicle owner or operator pay UT parking fines or show proof of insurance prior to releasing vehicles, a criminal offense;
5. Universities and municipalities are not exempt from following the Texas Towing, Storage and Booting Law;
6. The so-called university storage facility is not licensed as vehicle storage facility and the person releasing vehicles from the university storage facility do not hold a valid TDLR Vehicle Storage Facility Employee License, a criminal offense;
7. The Texas Department of Licensing & Regulations has told the tow industry that vehicle relocations are in violation of State Law, unless the vehicle is towed and stored at a licensed Vehicle Storage Facility.
We encourage you to stop this criminal behavior by your staff, targeting the students, their parents and alumni as it’s simply not ethically correct to engage in organized criminal activity, which is happening daily within campus parking lots.
After this criminal behavior continues since the original email on September 15, 2015, we sent another email to UTPD Chief David Carter dated November 12, 2015 that stated:
The night before the Kansas game, Park Right was still relocating vehicles within your campus parking lots. This criminal conduct which continues, which even TDLR states is illegal and law enforcement agencies is mandated by State Law to uphold the law such as UTPD.
It’s extremely appalling your agency stands by and allows criminal acts to be committed on campus with impunity targeting your student’s vehicles for profit.
Watch this video reference what is happening in Lubbock that is the same behavior happening on your campus.
Texas has one more home game on November 26th and I can assure you one of the local television stations will be filming this activity as shown in the video link, should it happen again, to expose to the everyone the criminal conduct pertaining to on campus non-consent towing due illegal tow signs, booting activity by unlicensed PTS staff and the holding of vehicle hostage until PTS parking fines are paid at Park Right’s Vehicle Storage Facility that was severely damaged after the last flood event of Onion Creek.
No entity, public or private are exempt from the Texas Towing, Storage & Booting Law, period.
Almost three months later, after meetings with Todd Forrester of Texas Department of Licensing & Regulations, Austin Police Department Wrecker Detective Tim Atkinson, UTPD and University attorneys, the following email response dated November 24, 2015, is basically an admission of guilt on the university’s behalf PTS has violated the law for the past two years thousands of times at the expense of their students, visitors and alumni.
Dear Mr. Johnson:
I am an attorney in the University of Texas at Austin’s Office of Legal Affairs, and I will respond to your emails below on behalf of the University.
While we decline to go through your allegations point by point, we disagree with many of your assertions. For example, we do not require parking fines be paid before a car is released, and relocated cars may be picked at any time by the owner or operator without paying any storage fees, saving the owner or operator hundreds of dollars.
That said, the University is committed to following the law, and where we believe that your assertions have merit, we have taken, or are in the midst of taking, corrective action, such as applying for boot licenses, modifying some signs and obtaining consent to relocate cars.
Very truly yours,
Jeffery L. Graves
With this in mind, everyone that has paid a boot fee or tow fee authorized by UT-Austin PTS is entitled to the statutory civil penalty of $1000 plus treble damages including the cost of repairs to their vehicle during the towing, booting and storage process payable by The University of Texas at Austin since September 1, 2013.
Mr. Graves comments reference parking fines not having to be paid in addition to the towing and storage fees is highly incorrect as we have solid evidence this has occurred, so someone within PTS has outright lied when question about the practice.
Based on all accounts, given the time period that has elapsed since this major fraud began, we suspect there could be at least 10,000 victims if not more owed money and extended the right under state law to file criminal charges against those involved. Victims of this two-year scam are encouraged to contact Richard Michael at 512-554-9411, who we recommend due to his bulldog style legal representation in pursuing justice for illegal towing and booting victims.