Mayor's Donations Not Openly Disclosed In Timely Matter & Correction

In an earlier Public Response post (http://publicresponse.com/?page=article&cid=709&aid=1347), I referred to business owners who donate to Nathan Triplett and who have business with the city. In several instances, Triplett has taken this money and then not openly disclosed, in a timely matter, having taken the money when he is voting on matters involving those businesses. These include, for example, taking money from the developer Kevin McGraw and not disclosing that when he has voted on a McGraw development project. Similarly, when Nathan has been voting on rules about downtown bars, he has not disclosed that he has taken a total of $1,000 in campaign contributions from the owner and the general manager of Dublin Square.

In that post, I also mentioned that Triplett has taken money from Jim Little, owner of H&H Mobil, and I referred to a "lucrative no-bid towing contract" H&H enjoys with the city. Lynsey Little Clayton, Jim Little’s daughter, wrote me to object to this characterization, so I FOIAed all towing contracts with the city to see what kind of correction I should run.

As I have just learned from the City Clerk’s response to my FOIA, there is no towing contract. ELPD and PACE call whomever they want to call, which in practice means they call H&H and sometimes Woods, by all accounts disproportionately favoring H&H. The absence of a contract apparently means that H&H can basically charge anything they want in terms of towing fees and impound fees for parking violations, because there is nothing in writing from the city that limits what a towing company can charge the person unfortunate enough to be subject to this kind of tow.

From what I learned in talking to city staff, it also appears that H&H enjoys the towing business that occurs when someone parks illegally on a private lot in East Lansing. In such cases, the property owner (typically a landlord) calls to report an illegal parker, PACE writes a ticket, and H&H is called to tow.

So in many ways, what exists appears to be even more favorable to H&H than a contract would be. Who is called depends purely on who is favored (by all accounts, H&H is favored because they have been found to be highly reliable by the city) and they can charge pretty much whatever they want, so far as I can tell.

If you have been towed for a parking violation in the City of East Lansing, I would appreciate hearing from you what you paid to whom to get your car back. I’m also open to suggestions on what I should FOIA to figure out more about this curious approach to a city business that generates tens or more likely hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in profit to whomever is favored by staff at the moment. This might be a matter for Council to discuss. Perhaps without Nathan.

Finally, in the previous post, I said that Jim Little had donated $420 to Triplett. I was incorrectly adding two lines on the disclosure, and in fact Little donated $220. In addition, I should report that Josh Clayton (partner of Little in H&H and Lynsey Clayton’s husband) donated $100 and Lynsey Little Clayton donated $50 to Nathan Triplett. I have an open FOIA to see if there are any agreements between the city and H&H, Little, or Clayton (e.g., lease agreements for impound lots, sidewalk repairs, etc.), so we can learn more about whether any of this business has come before Council.

Alice Dreger