A Hummel Report Investigation
The city of Warwick has been Ground Zero for the debate over how much Rhode Islanders are paying in annual car tax. This week our three-month investigation finds a city crossing guard allowing her son to use one of her license plates on his unregistered Jaguar - she uses the other on her Cadillac. That let him avoid the state sales tax and the city's car tax - for more than a year. Hear what the crossing guard, and the police, have to say after Jim Hummel questioned them about it last month.
Click here to watch the uncut interview with Gail Johnson.
Every school day just after 8 o'clock Gail Johnson leaves for her job as a crossing guard for the city of Warwick. She heads down Lake Shore Drive and north onto Warwick Avenue, arriving seven minutes later at her post a block from the John Brown Francis Elementary School.
Johnson drives a 2005 silver Cadillac with Rhode Island license plate XX-999.
Johnson's son, Joshua Brayman, is out the door most days well before his mom - driving to work in Providence. His vehicle? A 2005 silver Jaguar with Rhode Island license plate... XX-999.
A Hummel Report investigation found that Johnson and her son have used the same set of license plates for two cars for at least 14 months. One plate on the back of each car parked in the driveway of Johnson's house at 250 Cedar Swamp Road, which borders Green Airport and does not have any other houses nearby.
The Cadillac is registered, the Jaguar is not, even though Brayman bought it in in October of 2012. That means he's avoided the city's tax rolls, and the state did not collect sales tax because he never went to the Registry.
We asked Johnson about it one afternoon last month.
Hummel: ``Hey, we noticed that you are missing the front license plate on your car.''
Johnson: ``Yeah, I was in an accident.''
Hummel: ``Do you have any idea what happened to it?''
Johnson: ``It squished (hand motion).''
Hummel: ``Awhile ago?''
Johnson: ``Not too long ago. It squished. It can't be put on because of the things.''
Hummel: ``Well you know that Rhode Island law says you're supposed to have two on there.''
Johnson: ``Yeah, I know it. Yeah.''
Hummel: ``So are you in the process of getting another plate?.''
Johnson: ``Yup. I've got to get another one. Yup.''