Foreclosure for Unpaid Vehicle License Fee:

The City of Milwaukee is sticking to its guns to foreclose on a home for failure to pay a vehicle registration fee. The original fine was $50 but has escalated to $2,600 and a tax lien for failure to pay the original fine. From what I can tell the guy doesn't drive the van, it is just parked in his driveway. Of the man, the story reports: "The Social Security Administration has deemed Tubic mentally and physically disabled since 2001. He has a host of physical diseases and a personality disorder that limits his cognitive functioning, according to documents from the administration." The city rejected a proposal to settle the dispute by reducing the fine to the original $50, saying that it wouldn't be fair to relieve this guy of foreclosure when others have suffered foreclosure for unpaid traffic and vehicle fines.

Sarah (mail) (www):
I'm surprised they didn't ask for some kind of guardianship -- thus bolstering the argument that the guy was unfit to manage his affairs, and ensuring this won't happen again (which, if nothing else, should make the bureaucrats happier.) I know several attorneys with clients who only need someone to write checks for them every month (it appears the going rate is something like $30/month for this, when arranged through our local courts.)
9.1.2008 11:09am
I'm just not that sympathetic. According to one of the other articles in this series, Mr. Tubic has set aside the money needed to pay the fine and clear the lien in an escrow account. He can pay. He probably could have paid any time in the last four years, when he was getting notice after notice after notice that he ignored. Heck, he could have paid a service to tow the junked car away. He's just chosen this late date to fight it. Sorry, but if his medical condition makes him too irresponsible to act on notices that warn him he could lose his home if didn't act, it was really just a matter of time before something like this happened. If it wasn't this it would be the water bill. Or the tax bill. Or a workman's lien.

He needs to get a guardian for his financial affairs to handle the surplus on the sale and all his future finances.
9.1.2008 11:26am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
More interesting is this concept that the government can tell you weather or not you can have a untagged vehicle on your own property in the first place. What's the legitimate government interest?
9.1.2008 11:32am
Ian Argent (www):
That's my question - as long as the vehicle hasn't left the property - how can they justify charging the registration fee? (I suppose if he didn't turn in the plates they're charging him for the plates...)
9.1.2008 11:34am
Sk (mail):
I have a different concern. How could a $50 fine become a $2,600 dollar fine in a short amount of time?

Usury is illegal for private interests. Do governments get a special 'usury is ok' dispensation? As long as they call it 'penalties' or 'administrative fees' usury for government is ok?

9.1.2008 11:37am
SK - It wasn't short - it was four years. While the newspaper is doing a typically crappy job of reporting the facts and timeline in order to portray the homeowner in a more sympathetic light, it sounds like the amount includes subsequent fines for failing to abate the zoning violation - one article recounted that inspectors came out every thirty days for a while, since that was apparently the time given for abatement. Add in administrative costs, and it's easy to see how it got to $2600. Heck, it doesn't even sound like the administrative costs charged were that high.

Frankly, Milwaukee has been much more patient than many jurisdictions. I once got a notice that my property was going to be sold at tax sale for $200 in unpaid water bills that had accrued over the previous 9 months. I had not received the original bills because of a mistake at the City side. I prevented the sale by paying the damn bill. If I hadn't, I would have owed the purchaser $200, plus absurdly inflated "costs" that usually amount to $5000, or else the property itself would have been foreclosed on. Is that ridiculous? Yes. Is the reasonable response to refuse to pay or respond for four years until the property is being sold on the courthouse steps? Not so much.
9.1.2008 11:48am

You completely ignore the fact that this fellow is completely incapable of handling his own affairs. You presumably were, and just continued turning on the water despite knowing that you weren't paying for it. That's a stark difference.
9.1.2008 12:55pm
FlimFlam - No, apparently this guy WAS capable of handling his affairs. His taxes presumably were paid, as were his utilities. There's no mortgage on the house, so it's not like either was paid out of escrow by his mortgage company. He feeds himself, apparently, since he hasn't starved. He just kept ignoring this one bill because he "couldn't handle it". For four years. And for at least a portion of that time, he was getting monthly notices. You can fairly debate whether the underlying violation should be a violation, but the poor, poor disabled guy who just can't manage his own affairs story line doesn't really fly.

And yeah, I continued turning on the water despite not getting a bill in 9 months. Of course, our bills come every quarter (and sometimes not even then), so you can see how one might forget that one had not gotten a bill. And then there's the problem of how to pay a bill you don't receive . . . In any event. while I might have challenged the validity of the tax sale had it gone through without their providing me prior notice, I didn't waste time arguing over the fairness of giving me the first notice of the debt (including late fees) a month before they put the house up for tax sale. I paid promptly because my house was on the line. If I had thought the lien was unjust, I would have done what my in-laws recently (successfully) did and paid, then challenged the validity of the lien using the administrative process that they describe in the notice of lien.

This guy closed his eyes, put his hands over his ears, and hummed for four years while hoping it would all just go away. It didn't. I can't work up a lot of sympathy - the garbled, biased, and distorted story that the reporter is selling notwithstanding.
9.1.2008 2:19pm
Lucius Cornelius:
I have always been civil when I post here. But this case cuts too close to home. So forgive me if I get personal and insult some of you.

All the unsympathetic people here make me sick. I work as a hearing officer for a government agency that is like the city here....we take $50 assessments and inflate them into $3,000 assessments. The subjects usually panic when they get the assessment and do nothing. Guess what folks, this is what many people often do when faced with a big, unexpected penalty from the government.

And it sure works to the benefit of the government. Gee, every year the subject files a report and only owes a $50 fee. But, if the subject misses a report, we assume facts that require them to owe a $2,000 fee. Add in interest and a big penalty and you are at $2,850. What is really vile is that sometimes these people DID file the report...and some government employee was too busy to enter it into the data base. Or maybe the employee was trying to cover up their failure to do their job and SHREDDED the report. If the subject did not keep a copy of the report and proof of mailing it then they are out of luck.

Well, I for one do not stand for it. I have fought with my administrators and have created procedures to reduce the chances of abuses like this happening. There are other hearing officers who don't care as much...they will have an identical case, find against the subject, and move it on to collection.

I suffer when I have a case where the subject does not respond and I am forced to dismiss. I continue my fight to change the system so that the unfairness is reduced.

Most of us here are lawyers. We are supposed to help people deal with problems like this when the government comes calling and making unfair and unjust assessments. I find it obscene when the government crafts administrative procedures that come up with results like this. We in government can make procedures that are so complex that no one can figure them out...and the penalty for making a mistake is loss of your home.

We are lawyers. We recognize the importance of following procedures. That is why non-lawyers hire us. If we get an unexpected assessment from the government, we know how to challenge it. But non-lawyers often panic. So, I expect a little more sympathy from all of you. And if you can't manage that, then why don't you all go abuse yourselves!
9.1.2008 2:51pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
I wish to learn more of this investment scheme whereby one may turn 50 dollars into 2600 dollars in the space of 4 years with no input of labor and then exchange it for a piece of real property with a house. I believe I may have found a cure for poverty.
9.1.2008 3:29pm
The mayor previously said he would ensure the guy did NOT lose his home, apparently he has changed his mind.

I hope that the city can work something out with the guy short of foreclosure. We expect the government to collect on debts and the guy has been a pain, but there are mitigating factors owing to his mental state; we expect government to refrain sometimes from pressing every possible advantage, as a private litigant might.

According to the story "The Social Security Administration has deemed Tubic mentally and physically disabled since 2001. He has a host of physical diseases and a personality disorder that limits his cognitive functioning[.]" I would agree that he probably needs a guardian, at least for financial matters. Good for lawyer Mike Gonring and his firm for helping the guy pro bono.
9.1.2008 3:33pm
Jim - Become a credit card company. Then you can charge interest on the debt, late payment fees, interest on the interest and the late fees, turn it all into a judgement, turn the judgement into a lien, then initiate foreclosure. Of course, getting foreclosure doesn't actually get you the property - there has to be a sale, with the surplus going to the deadbeat debtor (as it will in this case).

Most people on this blog, being unabashed hypocrites, won't bat an eye.
9.1.2008 3:35pm
Sua Tremendita (mail):
Tremendous! Every once in a while the true nature of the State comes through so clear that even fools must face the truth.

Let's hope the poor fellow doesn't "resist" foreclosure and end up tasered to death.

All Hail the State!
9.1.2008 3:37pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
The article talks about vehicle registration. In every jurisdiction in which I have lived, including rapacious California, a vehicle that never enters a public highway need not be registered. Is that not the case in Wisconsin? Or is Wisconsin like California in that they force you to pay registration each year unless you notify them in writing by a certain date that you do not intend to register the vehicle?

One commenter mentions failure to abate a zoning violation. The article only mentions vehicle registration, not zoning. On the other hand, the fact that the city is involved suggests that this is actually a zoning issue since vehicle registration is a state matter. I have the strong impression that we haven't got the real story here.
9.1.2008 3:55pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Bill: This article explains it in more detail. Assuming it's accurate, the thieves in city government apparently came up with a scheme to piggyback upon state vehicle registration taxes to grab some excess revenue for themselves: if your vehicle isn't registered, it can't be parked out in the open, even though it's on a private driveway. They call it a "zoning" issue.

"Ronald Roberts, a code enforcement manager with the Department of Neighborhood Services, said the zoning code that prohibits people from parking unlicensed vehicles in their driveways is aimed at keeping residential properties from looking like junkyards."
9.1.2008 5:34pm
Disgruntled Guest:
It is often a local statute that prohibits parking a vehicle without registration plates in citizen's own driveway. It is very popular scam in suburban metro areas.

Also, assault on citizens other properties for trivial sums is plainly unreasonable seizure under Fourth.

I am interested to find, if actually it was ever challenged on constitutional grounds at any US circuit level?
9.1.2008 5:44pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Davied M. Nieporent,

Ah, thanks. So it is a zoning issue, not a parking fine or vehicle registration issue per se. Coming from a place where it is common to have a "truck garden", I don't have a lot of sympathy for these laws, which basically impose upper-middle class values on everybody else, but the legal situation now makes sense. In any case, these laws are badly formulated. If they really don't want unsightly, they could say so, rather than pick on people who have a respectable looking vehicle that they can't afford to register. While one might object to using unsightliness as the criterion on grounds of subjectivity, the law as formulated doesn't even accomplish its purpose since it is quite possible to have an unsightly vehicle that nonetheless is registered.

9.1.2008 5:51pm
Sua Tremendita:
Every once in a while the true nature of the State comes through so clear that even fools must face the truth.
Only one poster in this thread defends the local government's action in this outrageous case. Seems we have a successor to MKDP.
9.1.2008 6:22pm
TTB (mail):
Quarles &Brady is a high end law firm, so Tubic probably has good representation. I am curious about why Mike Gonring didn't just get him to pay the bill rather than suffer foreclosure.

One of our neighbors keeps several abandoned cars on his property, which I suspect is worth close to $2 million. While I don't like it, it is his property. So far as I know, they aren't creating any problems other than aesthetic. Someone did have the city haul away one of his cars which was parked on a neighbor's grass.

We have weird laws here in Hawaii, one of which allows anyone to park on the first 15 feet of your (in this case our) yard, but they have to move it every 24 ours. In this case our neighbor left his car on another neighbor's grass for several years, but out of the yard owner's routine sight. Someone eventually complained and off it went.
9.1.2008 8:29pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Zoning compliance officers are not always benign. One was the BTK (Bind Torture Kill) serial killer. From Court TV:

At the time of [Dennis]Rader's arrest, he was employed by Park City as a compliance supervisor, which involved "animal control, inoperable vehicles, general code compliance and nuisances." However, if there was anyone a nuisance, Rader's neighbors claimed it was he.

Fox News said that Rader was often referred to as a "bureaucratic bully" who would go "out of his way to find reasons to give people citations." It was further reported that he would go around filming his neighbors in the hopes of catching them committing some minor transgression. He even measured the grass of one woman he disliked, in order to catch her in violation of a city ordinance.

According to Fred Mann and Les Anderson's article in the Wichita Eagle, two Park City residents, Sarah Gordon and her sister Hearther Herrera, had a "run-in" with Rader at their garage sale in the summer of 2004 because they didn't have a license for it. Rader reportedly told the women, "You don't want to mess with me. I'm nobody to mess with." He wasn't kidding.

ABC News reported that Donna Barry, a neighbor of Rader's who has known him and his family since she was a child, had seen a darker side of Rader.

"Barry said she and her children were out on their front lawn one day, and a neighbor from across the street was outside with his dog. In his capacity as a dog catcher and ordinance officer, Barry said Rader approached the dog and allegedly tried to mace it.

"But, according to Barry, the 'wind blew the mace back in his face.' She says Rader groped for his tranquilizer gun, but couldn't get to it. That's when he allegedly pulled out a gun and shot the dog."

Other than the dog incident, "He was generally a really nice gentleman," she said. "I've known him since I was probably four or five years old. You know, he was the kind of neighbor that you could go down the road and he would stay up and talk to you and open the door for you and hold a conversation."

The Wichita Eagle reported that "several Park City residents and former co-workers described Rader as egotistical and arrogant -- a by-the-book person who pays attention to detail.
9.1.2008 8:35pm
Calculated Risk:
Wow AnneS, your really not a nice person. I definitely think the world could use a lot less people like you.

Empathy for others is a good thing. Apparently, you don't have it.

By the way, if any misfortune were to happen to you, I wouldn't care. If that matters.

In fact, I would celebrate. Some sort of karmic justice.
9.1.2008 9:25pm
Calculated Risk:
I am a liberal, not a libertarian. But I have to agree with David M. Nieporent. The city government in Milwaukee consists of a bunch of thieves.

As a liberal, I especially hate bad service from government employees or extremely obnoxious and immoral behavior by the government. Rude clerks at the DMV should be shot. As someone who thinks that government can and should be used to solve some problems that it currently does not, I do not like scum bags who damage the credibility of government.
9.1.2008 9:30pm
Lucius Cornelius:
My girlfriend has been suffering through my rants about this story all day. Well, she just found a beauty of a detail. Go to the Mayor's homepage for City of Milwaukee website:

"Facing Foreclosure? Act quickly to help your chances in keeping your home!"

Click on that link, and it takes you to a PDF about resources for those facing foreclosure from predatory lenders. Well, maybe the city should look at its own practices. It seems to have the most abusive foreclosure policies of all.
9.1.2008 10:05pm
Lucius Cornelius:
Calculated Risk. I am a conservative. I would probably disagree with many things that you say. But I agree with the sentiment of your most recent comment above.

I try my best to be one of the GOOD civil servants who tries to solve people's problems and keep the government from taking advantage of them. The reason why I am a conservative is that I don't think that there will ever be enough people like me in government service.
9.1.2008 10:08pm
bc (mail):
Well,next time, when I'm getting mugged by a mentally ill homeless guy, who's lost everything, at least I'll appreciate that, since I did nothing to help this guy, I kind of deserve it.
9.1.2008 10:40pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Tony Tutins,

To be fair, I'm pretty sure that the BTK killer was not acting in his official capacity as a zoning compliance officer when he killed those women.
9.2.2008 3:28am
"Rude clerks at the DMV should be shot." But otherwise competent people who foolishly ignore four years of notices that they could lose their homes unless they pay a fine they can afford to pay (remember, he claims to have the money in escrow) deserve unconditional sympathy and support from complete strangers. And let's not forget that some of the notices were contained in the tax bills that this guy managed to pay every year despite his fragile mental status. But we should use deadly force on rude government employees.

Yeah, I'm the evil, unempathetic one. Because unlike highly selective financial incompetence, rudeness could NEVER be attributed to mental health status.

It's possible to have empathy but nonetheless believe that someone should suffer the consequences of his own folly. It's also possible to have empathy without falling for the blatant dishonesty and emotional manipulation contained in that delightful genre known as "watchdog" journalism. Besides, if you buy for a minute that some of the posters on this blog share your general empathy for the world at large, you clearly haven't been paying attention. If this guy were losing his home because he had failed to pay his mortgage for a a few months, or got a judgement against him because he didn't pay his credit card bill, these same pillars of humanity would be shrugging their shoulders or questioning why someone who acquired over $200K in assets by gift after he started collecting SSI was still getting SSI.
9.2.2008 8:53am
Tony Tutins (mail):

If this guy were losing his home because he had failed to pay his mortgage for a a few months, or got a judgement against him because he didn't pay his credit card bill...

... the situation would be completely different.

In these examples, the homeowner would have received valuable goods in exchange for a promise to pay for them. If he breaks his promise, the other party can justly make him keep it.

Here, the city unilaterally obligated him to pay for the privilege of owning a vehicle. Sitting in his driveway, it uses no city resources. He made no promise; he received nothing and continues to receive nothing but government harassment. Only a masochist would willingly pay to be harassed.
9.2.2008 1:23pm
Dan Weber (www):
The city rejected a proposal to settle the dispute by reducing the fine to the original $50, saying that it wouldn't be fair to relieve this guy of foreclosure when others have suffered foreclosure for unpaid traffic and vehicle fines.

I'm sorry that you don't want your neck to be crushed under the heel of my jackboots, but, really, that would be so unfair to everyone else who had their necks crushed.
9.2.2008 1:23pm
Railroad Gin:
What is the purpose of the law here? I can understand that at some point the government has to play hardball to collect taxes and water bills, but who cares if someone has an untagged car on his own property? If its a junk vehicle that's an eyesore that's another issue, but the mere fact that there are no tags shouldn't even be against the law. And anyway license plates are between the vehicle owner and the State DMV. There simply is no government interest as far as the city is concerned.

I would be more sympathtetic to the people excusing the government's overkill if it were a 2-way street. When the bureaucrats don't send the bill, don't record the data, etc., there's no liability whatsoever for their mistaakes. If you can take a guy's home over a $50 fine for an asinine law, then government should be on the hook for penalties and assesments when they screw up. If you think government bureaucrats should be cut a little slack, then so should this guy.

This thing will get compromised at around $1,000 if anyone has any sense.
9.2.2008 1:52pm
Johnnie (mail) (www):
Let us not forget the massive fraud in the disability programs Social Security runs. Those programs have been a substitute or addition to welfare for a long time, and more a substitute since welfare reform. Is he a lazy malingerer or really mentally handicapped? He seemed to be able to pay his property taxes, electricity and water just fine. That tends to say that he is exploiting the Social Security disability system.
9.3.2008 3:53pm