Two local auto dealers are suing state officials for “abusive and reckless investigatory tactics” they claim were used to obtain documentation on two year’s worth of vehicle sales.
On Dec. 3, Prestonsburg attorney CV Reynolds filed a lawsuit on behalf of Discount Auto Brokers and Lexington attorney Mark Wohlander filed a lawsuit on behalf of Pops Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac against Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Greg Thomas and Kentucky Motor Vehicle Commission Director Carolos R. Cassady, in their official capacities. The car dealerships, operated by Brian Nelson and others in Floyd County, are seeking a declaration of rights and a permanent injunction.
Thomas and Cassady could not be reached for comment prior to print deadline.
“This Petition is filed to protect (the car dealerships) from abusive and reckless investigatory tactics on behalf of the (Thomas and Cassady) through an equally abusive and reckless document request,” the lawsuits state.
The lawsuits allege that Cassady and Thomas sought documentation on every vehicle that had been purchased at the dealerships in the last two years.
They included copies of letters sent to the dealerships on Oct. 18, requesting “all sales transaction documents” for vehicles sold between 2017 and 2019.
The lawsuit does not mention why Thomas and Cassady sought the vehicle sales documentation.
The letter requested the documents be provided within 10 days. In the lawsuit, the attorneys claim the document request would require “an unreasonably voluminous amount of documents.” Reynolds argued that each sale or purchase of a vehicle consisted of about 50 pages of documents and Discount Auto Brokers sold 1,947 vehicles during the two-year time period, while Wohlander argued that Pop’s sold an average of 150 vehicles per month, which would account for an estimated 180,000 pages of documents.
“For this production, (Discount Auto Brokers) was initially given 10 days to respond,” Reynolds wrote. “Yet, it is not the sheer scope of the request alone that suggests that the request is without legal authority. A number of additional factors suggest that the request is abusive.”
He and Wohlander claim that Thomas and Cassady sought the records under a law that allows them to require “periodic reports to all licensed dealers,” and they claim that law doesn’t give the commission “the outrageous authority it seeks to demand here.”
They claim the request is unconstitutional and that the law firm representing the cabinet is “not authorized under the state procurement process to engage in such investigatory matters.” They claim the dealership was informed that not responding to the request could result in loss of a motor vehicle sales license, but note the law does not permit termination of licenses for that reason.
“The penalty for failing to comply relied upon imposes a modest fine, not the draconian sanction misrepresented and threatened by (Thomas and Cassady),” the lawsuits state. “Ultimately, the commission is engaged in an investigation. It would prefer to circumvent the legal resources available to them in order to excessively burden (the dealerships). Such abusive tactics should not go unnoticed by the courts.”
Attorneys for both dealerships claim that because of the scope of the request, the dealerships’ “rights are threatened” and they have “suffered irreparable injury.”
They ask the court to declare the document request unconstitutional, to declare that Thomas and Cassady don’t have the authority to terminate the motor vehicle sales license if the documents are not provided and for injunctive relieve that would restrain Thomas and Cassady and any of their agents from enforcing the document request.
They also seek an award of attorneys fees and costs related to the lawsuit.