The Gilbert Auto Honda dealership in College Place. The dealership, which opened in the summer of 2011, has since the start of this year been at the center of an ongoing series of legal disputes.
Photo by Andy Porter.
WALLA WALLA — An apparent victory by the city of College Place in a lawsuit against a local car dealer has been set aside.
Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge Scott Wolfram has granted a motion filed by the attorney for Mark Gilbert to vacate an order of default in the suit by the city, which seeks approximately $2 million for a road built to serve the Gilbert Auto dealership alongside State Route 125.
The default order would have paved the way for the city to obtain a judgment for the money. The suit will now proceed through the regular channels.
The lawsuit was filed in early April by College Place city attorney Charles Phillips. It names as defendants Mark W. and Susan Gilbert, Gilbert Imports and GA Group Properties. Gilbert is the owner of Gilbert Auto Honda dealership in College Place and other dealerships in Walla Walla, Pendleton, Moses Lake, Wash. and Moscow, Idaho.
The order of default was issued by Wolfram on June 3 after Gilbert’s attorney failed to respond to the city’s motion that the court issue a ruling in its favor.
On June 5, Gilbert’s attorney, David Eash of Spokane, filed a motion to set aside the order of default. In the motion, Eash said that because he had been heavily involved in preparation for a bankruptcy trial in federal court, he had failed to file a response to the city’s motion. “This failure was the result of a simple oversight on my part,” he wrote.
Wolfram granted Eash’s motion Friday. The order was also signed by Phillips.
The city had sued in April to restart legal proceedings that began in late January with a lawsuit against the Gilberts and the two companies. The city’s complaint alleged the defendants failed to make payments promised for construction of the Commercial Drive project, which was built in 2008 to provide access to Gilbert’s dealership and a bank on the commercially zoned property alongside the highway.
In its lawsuit, the city is seeking $2,025,000, less tax revenues to the city generated by sales from Gilbert Auto Honda. It is also seeking interest on the missed payments.
The city’s first lawsuit was dismissed in February under an agreement in which, among other conditions, Gilbert agreed to pay the city $100,000 in three installments. The first two installments of $25,000 apiece were paid on time in February and early March, but Gilbert failed to make the final payment of $50,000 due March 18.
Andy Porter can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8318.