Skip to comments.Storage firm sells deployed Navy nurse's possessions
Posted on 01/15/2012 2:28:02 AM PST by afraidfortherepublic
Somewhere around West Bend, several people have pieces of U.S. Navy Commander Wilma Roberts' life - her furniture, her china, her clothes, financial records, the family Bible, even the ceremonial sword from her son's graduation from a military academy.
Nearly all Roberts' worldly possessions were auctioned off by a storage business last summer after a classic military snafu: Though Roberts, 48, was on active duty in Japan and Kuwait from July 2008 to July 2011, Navy officials stopped paying for her storage in 2010 and told the West Bend company it could sell off the goods - though the Navy bureaucrats and even the storage business could have easily learned that Roberts was deployed and protected from such an action.
A man who bought Roberts' more than 7,000 pounds of stored belongings for $2,101 in June later sold most of the things at a yard sale - just as Roberts was returning. She valued the goods at $60,000.
But it's the moving and storage company, Chips Express, that now finds itself a defendant in federal court.
Roberts sued the firm under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which prohibits the sale of any active military member's property to pay a storage lien without a court order. The lawsuit seeks actual and punitive damages and the costs of monitoring Roberts' credit record, because she fears possible identity theft from her missing personal financial records.
Her attorney, a retired Air Force colonel in Louisiana who specializes in cases under the act, concedes there were also serious mistakes made by the Navy.
"It's a real crying shame we did this to one of our own, but the ultimate responsible person is Chips Express," lawyer John Odom Jr. said.
The company's president, Hank Schloemer, said his family-run operation has been contracting with Naval Station Great Lakes' Personal Property Office to pack, move and store service members' property for 15 years and had never heard of the law or had a situation like Roberts'. Officials with the Personal Property Office told him to treat the goods like an unpaid civilian lot, he said, and never tried to help him get better contacts for Roberts over the months Chips Express tried on its own to track her down.
Schloemer also disputes another of Odom's claims - that the buyer at auction had doubts when he unpacked Roberts' crates, and went back to Chips Express to ask if there had been a mistake. Odom says the buyer - whom neither Odom nor Schloemer would name - got information from Chips Express from which he inferred Roberts had been killed in action, and went so far as to put up her photo with candles to that effect during the yard sale.
"That's a bunch of baloney," Schloemer said. "I think that was for effect more than anything."
Items packed up in 2008
Roberts, an Illinois resident and a critical care nurse, has been on active duty with the Navy since 1991. In 2008, she was in training in Milwaukee, Odom said, when she moved to Okinawa, Japan, for two years. That's when Great Lakes arranged to have Chips Express pack up, move and store her property until July 2010.
While stationed in Japan, Roberts was deployed to Kuwait, Odom said. She says she contacted Great Lakes' property office to let them know she would be gone another year, not returning until July 2011.
Somehow, that message never got recorded, and on Aug. 31, 2010, the Navy converted Roberts' storage contract to private-pay. In December, Chips Express sent overdue payment notices to an address for Roberts in Colorado, but they came back undeliverable. In April, it sent a notice of lien to the same address; it was also returned.
On July 2, according to the lawsuit, Roberts' possessions were sold at auction.
A week later, Roberts came back from overseas and requested her property be delivered to her new address in Illinois.
Schloemer remembers that phone call.
"Great Lakes called us with directions on where to send her things," he said. "We said we'd just sold it all. The comment by the person down there was, 'Oh my god - I'll call you back.' "
Roberts, who didn't respond to an interview request placed through her attorney, told the Navy Times last fall that when she found out, she immediately tried to get the name of the buyer, but Chips Express wouldn't cooperate until a Navy lawyer intervened.
Schloemer said the buyer had expressly asked that his name not be given out, and the business wasn't sure about privacy rights. "We got caught in the middle," he said. "Finally we released the name to the Navy."
Odom says that when Roberts went to the buyer's house in West Bend in August, he almost fainted. He had burned her photos, and the only thing he kept was her grandmother's fur coat, since his wife had fancied it, which he returned - though with the original owner's embroidered name panel cut out.
Roberts sat in her car and cried for 45 minutes, the buyer told Odom.
Schloemer said that within a few weeks of the problem's discovery, two people who worked at Great Lakes' Personal Property Office retired, and within a couple of months, the whole operation was closed and transferred to Norfolk, Va.
A public affairs officer with the Naval Supply Systems Command's Global Logistic Support, Nannette Davis, did not return a message Friday. In an interview with the Navy Times, she called the communication breakdown regrettable and said the Navy will do more training in storage procedure so it won't happen again.
Am i misunderstanding the story? Shouldnt the navy be on the hook as well?
1. The government is never wrong.
2. See rule #1.
Sounds like she’ll be owning a mini-storage facility soon.
She should sue the CRAP out of everyone involved. This is absolutely unbelievable!
A good lawyer would sue all of them and for as much as possible.
-——it’s the moving and storage company———
These were the guys that rendered my walnut book shelves into a stack of boards to fit in the Conex box.
When we returned from the Philippines we discovered boards not shelves.
The Navy paid damages
I have first hand experience of that rule.
“Schloemer said the buyer had expressly asked that his name not be given out, and the business wasn’t sure about privacy rights.”
Of course the name of the buyer should be made public.
I think there is some rule that a service person cannot sue the Navy. I’m not sure, so please correct me if I’m wrong.
The company the Air Force contracted to move our piddly little lot of belongings didn’t take the time to unscrew the bolts attaching the legs to our kitchen table. They just broke them off. We were very young then. The storage company said “ no we didn’t”. Life lesson learned!
Didn’t I see this auction on “Storage Wars?”
-——piddly little lot of belongings——
That pretty well describes our situation to a T
I can understand the Navy paying for the move, but the storage? For several years?
One files a claim for reparation of damages.
One can also contact their Congressman and request a Congressional Inquiry if the local command ignores orders, as well as contacting the Inspector General for the same command.
“....within a few weeks of the problem’s discovery, two people who worked at Great Lakes’ Personal Property Office retired”
While folks seem to quickly blame the storage firm, and the folks that bought and sold her stuff, it’s quite clear that it was the Navy’s fault.
The reason the storage firm is being sued is that they are the only folks that might have resources and insurance - and lawyers go after the money.
The fault is truly the Navy’s/federal government. They employed truly incompetent federal civilians, who were able to actually “retire” after entire careers of incompetence.
The Navy and the Federal Government is entirely satisfied with the blame being shifted to other folks. Everyone loses, except of course the Navy civilian and federal employees who retire in comfort, oblivious of the mayhem their decades of incompetence have wrought upon the world and victimized service members.
The lesson is, of course, if you want it done right, do it yourself.
The NTS (Non-temp storage) service provider is not under contract with the service memeber when HHG are packed and brought into storage. They are considered government property moving under a 1299 or a GBl when they are released. The PPSO has the obligation to advise of the NTS entitlement to the storage provider and then advise of when it converts to member's expense. In the rare case that a converted shipment goes unpaid, the PPSO issues written authorization to auction the NTS lot. The PPSO screwed up. The service provider has no means to track the member down, all we are given is the HOR and pick0up location.
I do military SIT and NTS for three different PPSO's. Trust me, the SDDC has turned the DPS into a convuluted mess, I'm surprised it doesn't happen more than it does, but the fault is with the PPSO, not the NTS provider.
Exactly. It would also cost them (us) much, much less.
That is self-storage, not military ordered non-temp storage or storage in transit. NTS and SIT are payed by Powertrac under the oder of the PPSO in the region. When the PPSO stops paying, they issue an order to convert it to member's expense.
It is not a mini-storage facility. Non-Temp military storage is done by full-service moving companies and stored in vaults in their warehouses.
The moving company followed the order of the PPSO, the PPSO is at fault. That is the way the DPS (Defense Personal Property System) works. The moving company did nothing wrong. Please learn how the DPS works before assigning blame. We have three warehouses full of NTS and SIT - believe me, I know the system.
“Exactly. It would also cost them (us) much, much less. “
Oh, the naivete. If you want it done right, contract it all out - remove the unaccountable from the equation - the now on-the-beach-with-mai-tai retired federal civilians.