The Utah Tax Commission, which oversees the state Division of Motor Vehicles, on Friday placed the vanity plate under review after an image of the plate circulated on social media, catching the attention of some state lawmakers.
But it was not the first time the plate was called into question.
At least two drivers made complaints to the DMV in fall 2016, according to the people who reported the plate. Jade Letourneau noticed the license plate while she was stuck in traffic in October 2016 and sent a message to the division, alerting it to what she argued was a violation of state rules forbidding vanity plates that “express contempt, ridicule or superiority of a race, religion, deity, ethnic heritage, gender, or political affiliation.”
“I see this as clear contempt,” she wrote in an email with a photo of the plate attached.
DMV staffers replied that they received her request to recall the plate. But the manager of the division’s unit over vanity plates wrote that the owner would have a chance to appeal a recall.
“In the event that this was to happen, the DMV would subpoena you to testify to your objections to the plate. The first level of appeal would be at the Tax Commission and could possibly continue to District Court and ultimately the Utah Supreme Court,” the reply stated.
Letourneau responded that she would be willing to testify, according to emails she provided to The Salt Lake Tribune. Then, she said, “nothing happened.”
“I thought, ‘Does that plate say what I think it says?’” Luchetti said.
She snapped a photo of the plate and forwarded it to her husband, David Cleveland, who filed a complaint with the DMV and posted the image to Instagram.
Officials asked them if they would be willing to testify to their objections. Like Latourneau, Luchetti and Cleveland agreed.
“A state agency represents everyone in the state,” Cleveland said. “That’s the reason we filed a complaint. It’s all well and good to put up a bumper sticker, but when it’s a state entity, it represents everyone, all the taxpayers. That’s why they have guidelines … when people personalize their license plates.”
The couple said they received no further word about their complaint. “We wrongly assumed they recalled the offensive license plate,” Luchetti said, “but it looks like they did not.”
When images of the plate surfaced again last week on social media, DMV officials confirmed the vanity plate was requested in 2015, but said they “don’t know why it was approved.” The commission is reviewing whether the license plate complies with state rules for vanity plates.
Tammy Kikuchi, spokeswoman for the Utah Tax Commission, had said officials were “surprised” to learn of the license plate, which prompted Letourneau, as well as Luchetti and Cleveland, to relay their complaints to The Tribune.
Asked about the previous complaints, Kikuchi said the DMV’s present staff did not know about them until Monday morning. “Yes, we did receive complaints before,” Kikuchi said, “but none of those people who are in charge now were in charge then, so we were unaware.”
Kikuchi said she could not discuss the previous complaints because they are part of an ongoing review. “By statute,” Kikuchi added, “they are confidential.”