|Updated: A+ Auto School not licensed|
|Written by Chandra L. Mattingly|
|Wednesday, July 18, 2012 3:14 PM|
A prediction in February that A+ Auto Driving School in Aurora might be in trouble has been fulfilled.
Owner Gary Baxter has renewed neither his instructor's license nor the school's license with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, said Dennis Rosebrough, IBMV deputy commissioner of external affairs. So as of July 1, neither is licensed.
“The practical impact …(is) we don't recognize a driving test issued by that school,” said Rosebrough. With a licensed driving school, after a student completes both classroom and driving instruction, he or she can take a driving test at the school and will not have to take one at the BMV to get a driver's license.
Meanwhile, students age 15 with learners' permits are driving illegally if they continue to drive with Baxter, because he is not a licensed instructor, said Rosebrough.
And the Indiana Attorney' General's Consumer Fraud Division is formally investigating the situation, said Aurora Attorney Jeff Stratman. The Aurora Police Department had received numerous complaints about the driving school: whether it is properly licensed and the potential for consumer fraud related to its license, he said.
So after some initial investigation, APD and the Dearborn County Prosecutor's Office and the Indiana Attorney General's Office determined the consumer fraud division should be the agency to receive complaints and determine if wrongful acts have been committed, said Stratman.
Those who want to file a formal complaint or who have pertinent information relevant to the investigation should contact the fraud division at www.indianaconsumer.com or call 800-382-5516, said Stratman. A formal complaint may be filed online or by telephone.
Warning last winter
An Indianapolis parent whose daughter was taking driver's education at one of three driving schools Baxter owned in Marion County tried to warn Aurora folks through Register Publications after those schools closed down early this year. The parent, who chose to remain anonymous, had not recovered the $350 he'd paid and his daughter was one of many who had no documentation for the classes and driving instruction she'd taken.
The IBMV revoked Baxter's Indianapolis driving school business license after A Auto abruptly closed its offices in January. Previously, the BMV had discontinued A Auto's participation in the permit waiver program in September after BMV staff found the company soliciting immigrant customers on IBMV property, Rosebrough said previously.
Despite no license, the Aurora school does not appear to be closed.
Paul Dicken, Aurora, a driving instructor at the school, said he has been observing activities at the school's 401 Second St. location and seen Baxter continuing to operate.
“He's continued to do it even into this week. I've been watching him. … He finished a driver last night,” said Dicken Tuesday, July 17.
Two youths were waiting in front of the site Tuesday evening, and were brought up-to-date by Dicken, who said Baxter had driven by earlier but left when he spotted a news crew.
“This is the first I know,” said John King, Moores Hill, whose stepdaughter Deborah Moore, 15, had expected a lesson Wednesday. She just had one more night before she was to get her certificate of completion, said King.
“We paid $400,” he said, wondering if he'd get any of his money back.
Maybe 50 kids were enrolled who had not completed the course, said Jay Malott, Aurora, another instructor for A+ who has not driven for the school since it lost its license. Malott hasn't quit, just won't drive until it's legal, he said.
“I'm waiting to get paid, I guess,” he said. A driver's ed instructor for about 25 years, he is owed $1,600 by Baxter, he said.
Dicken, who said he is owed almost $7,000 in back wages, said he looked at records in the driving school last week. Between what he saw and what the kids have told him, he suspects paperwork has been backdated and his signature has been forged. Two signatures are required and families have told them his is included on the certificates they've received, even though he knows he has not signed them, said Dicken.
SUBHEAD: False assurances?
He has not driven for A+ since June 30, he said. Before that, Baxter had assured his employees that he was taking care of getting both their instructors' licenses, his own and the license for the school, but he did not.
“He has not fired me and I have not resigned,” said Dicken. Employed at A+ since June 2004, he told Baxter he would not be back to work for him until Baxter and A+ were legal.
“... It really bothers me in a sense. All he had to do was go up and get the paperwork done. … It looks like there was plenty of money coming in,” said Malott.
Baxter did not return phone calls.
Jerrie Wuest, Milan, was employed at A+ for seven years, but finally quit May 3 after months of not being paid, she said.
Wednesday, July 11, she went to court seeking that pay, and was granted a judgment against Baxter for $3,630 by Dearborn Superior Court I Judge Jonathan Cleary.
Until January, A+ was managed by Brent Davidson, and things were going OK, said Wuest. But after Baxter closed the Indianapolis schools, he came to Aurora. None of the employees in any of the locations has been paid since Jan. 1, she said.
Davidson resigned in April, but the other Aurora employees stayed longer as Baxter gave them various excuses, from having forgotten his check book to having left it somewhere, said Wuest.
“I loved my job and it killed me to have to leave down there,” she said. Finally, both Malott and Dicken quit driving for A+.
“I know there's a lot of kids who haven't finished their drives,” said Dicken, who has been a driving instructor for 35 years.with dozens of students left with incomplete instruction.
“These kids who are doing it now, it's not going to count for them,” he said, referring to both the required hours of driving and the drive tests given by Baxter.
Dicken has filed a civil suit to try to recover his wages, and has a court date Aug. 7. Malott has a court date of Aug. 31, said Wuest.
“It's just kind of unfortunate. We got taken, just like the kids,” said Malott.
Aurora City Attorney Jeff Stratman, noting driving schools are regulated by IBMV, nonetheless warned consumers to discuss the licensure issue with A+ before paying money for services. The city has not investigated the A+ situation, however, and “does not want to discourage people from patronizing our Aurora businesses if they are properly and legally providing the services and goods they offer to the public,” he said via email.
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|Last Updated on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 7:04 PM|