Justice Department settles with Honolulu over service member vehicles

By Susan McFarland  |  Feb. 16, 2018 at 2:40 PM
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Feb. 16 (UPI) -- The Justice Department on Friday announced it has reached an agreement with Honolulu after filling a lawsuit accusing the city and county of towing and selling vehicles of active-duty service members without court orders.

The complaint, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, accuses Honolulu and its contracted towing company, All Island Automotive Towing, of violating the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a law that provides protections for military members while in active duty.

Under the agreement, Honolulu must adopt new procedures compliant with the act and pay three service members a total of $55,857 to compensate for their vehicles being auctioned off while they were at sea aboard Navy ships.

The agreement also requires Honolulu to establish a $150,000 settlement fund for other servicemembers whose SCRA rights may have been violated.

A Justice Department investigation found between 2011 and 2016, Honolulu auctioned 1,440 cars that were registered as service members during the motor vehicle registration process.

Honolulu's new procedures will ensure active-duty service members receive notice about their car being towed and requires the city and county to obtain a court order before selling the car at action.

"The Justice Department is committed to working tirelessly to protect the rights of the servicemembers who make great personal sacrifices in service to our country," said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division.

U.S. Attorney Kenji M. Price of the District of Hawaii said his office will continue to work with the Civil Rights Division "to ensure that servicemembers who dedicate their lives to preserving our security and freedom do not forfeit their rights in doing so."

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