DETROIT – A towing operator who makes his money by towing cars for Michigan State Police officials said he gave Detroit Tigers tickets to troopers, but not as bribes.
The exchanges led to an internal affairs investigation and a federal lawsuit being filed by a whistleblower, who said law enforcement officials are retaliating against him for cooperating with investigators.
A lawsuit was filed by towing operator Shane Anders, who said he is losing tow business because Michigan State Police officers are angry at him for turning over to investigators a list of troopers who took free tickets to Tigers games.
"I would ask troopers or officers if, you know, if they wanted to go to a game," Anders said.
In an exclusive interview with the Local 4 Defenders, Anders, the owner of Area and Star Towing, said he gave nearly 20 MSP troopers free tickets to Tigers games but said it wasn't a bribe for more towing business.
"The perception is you're trading tickets for tows and that's frustrating for me and that was never the intent whatsoever," Anders said.
He said he spoke to Michigan State Police internal affairs officials on the record, even turning over a list of names of law enforcement officers who received tickets.
"I was clear with them that giving tickets to them, it was really important to me to make sure that they truly understood that under no circumstances was there any arrangements with any of them," Anders said.
He said he told internal affairs officials that nobody did anything wrong.
"I had nothing to hide," Anders said. "The officers had nothing to hide, and I felt that it was really important to be transparent. It would help clear the perception up, clear my name and therefore the troopers, too."
Anders said a formal reprimand went into the personnel file of every officer on his list. Cmdr. Monica Yesh, who was overseeing towing contracts for Michigan State Police, was transferred after taking tickets from Anders.
"I would have never thought that would've happened, nor did I want something like that to affect anybody's job, performance or their career," Anders said.
He said some of the people who were reprimanded got angry at him for giving up their names. Anders has now filed a civil lawsuit claiming he's being retaliated against for cooperating with internal affairs officials.
"In March 2019, the post commander out of nowhere decided to remove Star Towing from their rotation," Anders said. "I think I was removed based on retaliation. It's devastating because that is my business proving to law enforcement, and when you have law enforcement acting this way toward you, word travels and it's going to give the wrong perception."
He said the whole tickets-for-tows investigation came to be because a disgruntled Michigan State Police trooper filed a formal complaint.
"So, unfortunately, a trooper from the state police department filed a complaint and accused myself and other troopers from the department in a ticket-for-tow scenario," Anders said. "There clearly was no wrongdoing, but we have changed our policy so that we won't have to address that in the future, and so we have decided not to do that any longer."
The Local 4 Defenders aren't naming the officers who accepted tickets, but we are looking deeper into the relationships.
Michigan State Police released the following statement:
"While it is a violation of the MSP code of conduct to accept a gift, none of these members were found to have accepted any of these tickets in exchange for any preferential treatment for Mr. Anders or his towing business. ... The members who accepted tickets were verbally counseled against accepting sporting game tickets in the future."