Would-be driving school mogul Sean Probst ran afoul of the Washington State Patrol this week, and the collision wasn’t pretty.
The patrol ordered the Spanaway resident to remove a video from his driving school Web site on Thursday after agency officials learned it wrongly suggested state endorsement of Probst’s business.
The News Tribune called the patrol this week and asked whether officials knew about Probst’s video. They didn’t.
“We are in no way a partner or sponsor of his program or business,” said Capt. Jeff Devere, a patrol spokesman. “His inappropriate use of our name and logo in connection with his business is not to be tolerated.”
Devere said he spoke to Probst on Thursday and told him to remove all references to the patrol from the Web site. Probst, 27, did not respond to a phone message from The News Tribune on Friday.
Probst is the son of Midland resident Gary Probst, owner of the largest driving-school franchise in the state: Diamond Driving School, America’s Best Driving School and Quality Driving School. The elder Probst faces administrative charges of providing false information on 41 school applications. A hearing before the Department of Licensing is pending.
The patrol sent out a news release describing the incident involving the video.
“The reference used by the Dynasty Driving School stating that the WSP and WSTC (Washington State Traffic Safety Commission) are partners/sponsors of their program is inappropriate and inaccurate,” the release reads.
“Neither the WSP nor the WTSC knowingly took part in the production of this video, or agreed to participate as a partner or a sponsor of their program or any other driving school in Washington State.”
‘no idea about the video in the first place’
Until Thursday, the video, about eight minutes long, appeared in the links section of Sean Probst’s site, www.dynastydriving.com. The footage features trooper Ronny Moss speaking to a group of students at an unidentified location.
He stands in front of a presentation board that displays Probst’s driving school logo, along with a logo for another Sean Probst-linked promotion effort called the “D.R.I.V.E. Campaign.”
Moss speaks to the students for a few moments, then leaves the frame. The video shifts to Sean Probst giving a lecture to the student group. It closes with a list of “partners,” including the names and logos of the patrol and the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission.
Devere said Moss was giving a standard community outreach presentation to students, a common practice among troopers. He didn’t know his appearance would be used for promotional purposes.
“Our trooper was unaware that the presentation was being taped,” Devere said. “We had no idea about the video in the first place, nor did we give permission.”
Is it a crime? Devere wasn’t sure, but he said he is asking the patrol’s legal office to review the situation.
According to Devere, Sean Probst told him the presentation was sponsored by the D.R.I.V.E. Campaign, not his business – but multiple records show a direct link between the two entities.
probst business listed as partner of campaign
Records from the Secretary of State’s Office show the D.R.I.V.E. Campaign is a registered corporation, created in March. Its listed agent is Ethan Penton of Tacoma. No one answered the door Friday at the campaign’s listed address, an apartment in University Place.
A telephone number for Penton appears at the end of the video. The number was out of service Friday.
The campaign has its own Web site, www.drivecampaign.org – it was still active Friday. It lists the patrol, the Traffic Safety Commission and Dynasty Driving School as partners. Internet registration records show the site was created in December 2005. The listed registrant is Sean Probst.
Though the Dynasty Web site has been active since January, no school has opened and Sean Probst has not received required operating licenses from the state Department of Licensing.
In December, he filed applications to open 40 Dynasty schools around the state. In March, he withdrew most of those applications, reducing the number of proposed schools to eight. The state has licensed none of them yet, said Brad Benfield, Department of Licensing spokesman.
Last week, Sean Probst won a legal victory when a Clallam County judge dismissed a forgery charge against him before the case could go to trial.
Clallam County deputy prosecutor Bruce Hanify filed a motion Friday to have the case reconsidered. If he prevails, the case would return to court.
Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486www.thenewstribune.com.