State investigating parking boot business

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The dreaded boot stops drivers in their tracks and forces them to foot a costly bill. Enough people have complained about the aggressive parking enforcement that the state is taking a closer look.

No matter how good the food a parking boot on your car can leave a bad taste.

"I think anybody would be irate to lose $160 to a parking boot for not even two minutes," said Jimmy Pan, who had his car booted. "I just felt wronged. We got scammed."

Signs do say parking for customers at 755 Kapahulu Avenue. People who don't eat at one of the food trucks on the lot can have their car immediately booted by a company hired by the lot owner.

"Check this out, $160 for 5 minutes tops. I mean c'mon," said Kurt Tsubota.

Tsubota came back to his car to find it had the boot and a sticker saying pay $160 bucks cash on the spot. If not he couldn't have his car back.

"So it's kind of like you're getting booted in the, blank. I'm kind of getting booted in the blank. I'm trying to make light of it but I'm pretty pissed off right now to the point where I'm going to wait for the guy, and I'm going to pay it and not get in trouble," said Tsubota. "I might as well go park illegally on the street and get a ticket for that versus $160 for 5 minutes."

He ran to the ATM, got the cash and paid the big and potentially intimidating guys who then unlocked the boot.

"It felt like shady operations all the way around," said Geoffrey Skoglund.

Skoglund is from Bravo Channel's reality show Dukes of Melrose. He is on Oahu on vacation and was also hit by the boot. He says the $160 could have helped businesses.

"Instead it's going to someone who is hiding behind a taco truck in a food station waiting to put a boot on your car," said Skoglund.

The State Office of Consumer Protection is investigating. Hawaii Boot Removal, the company responsible, says it's not doing anything wrong.

"There are laws that regulate towing but at this point in time nothing regulates booting," said Megan Kau, Hawaii Boot Removal Attorney. "There are no laws against booting in the state of Hawaii. There is nothing in the Hawaii Revised Statutes, in the revised ordinance of Honolulu or any other statute that prohibits someone from booting a car."

Technically Hawaii Boot Removal can charge whatever it wants. Still the state has questioned the owner Sean Starn. His attorney says they're even looking at charging him for criminal tampering, which means affecting someone else's property without their consent to cause inconvenience. It's a petty misdemeanor punishable by $500 fine or even jail.

"I believe it is frivolous and given my criminal background I believe the state would not be able to pursue a case for criminal tampering," said Kau. "We're going to fight the State every way we can."

Which is more than what people given the boot can do.

There was a bill at the capitol to regulate the parking boot industry and limit parking boot fines to $25 but so far it's stalled. For more information on House Bill 1100 click here.

The State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs says people should file a complaint by calling 808-587-4272 or by clicking here

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