By MARK SARDELLA
The Board of Selectmen last night revoked the license of a Class II used car dealer saying that the owner’s failure to obtain a bond for the business had resulted in threatened litigation against the town and possible liability for the town stemming from a court judgment obtained by a plaintiff against the dealer.
Used car dealers are required by state law to obtain a surety bond satisfactory to the municipal licensing authority as proof of financial responsibility and as protection for consumers and the state against fraud or misrepresentation by the dealer.
Toby Donald, owner of TBI Auto Sales appeared at a hearing before the selectmen last night along with his wife, Maria Donald. The Donalds operate the “no display” used car dealership from their address at 4 Middlesex St.
Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio said that the town initially informed Donald of the bond requirement in June 2013, around the time the license was issued. In December of 2013, the board voted not to renew the Class II license after receiving a complaint from a Worcester woman who had purchased a vehicle from TBI Auto Sales and claimed that Donald had misrepresented the condition of the car. In January 2014, the board voted to re-instate TBI’s license after a hearing where Donald offered his side of the story.
Maio said that his office continued to ask Donald to provide proof that he had obtained the legally required bond and reminding him that his license was not valid without the bond. Maio said that multiple requests sent to Donald were ignored. Maio noted that his office emailed Donald in July, 2014 regarding the missing bond and sent a certified letter in August. Earlier this month, Maio said, Donald was told that there would be a hearing on Sept. 29 to revoke his license as a result of the missing bond. On Sept. 24, Maio said, a certified letter to that effect was sent to TBI Auto. On Sept. 26, 2014, Maio said, his office received a copy of the bond.
Maio said that while the bond would offer protection going forward, any activity that occurred prior to Donald obtaining the bond would not be covered. Town Counsel Thomas Mullen reported that a plaintiff had obtained a court judgment against Donald in the amount of $11,000 and through an attorney was also threatening litigation against the town. Mullen said that while he was not overly concerned about the threatened litigation, it would not have even come up if Donald had obtained the required bond, which would have paid the plaintiff’s claim.
Donald insisted that when he was issued the license he was not told that he needed to obtain a bond. But Selectman Phillis Hull produced a copy of a letter from the town sent to Donald in June of 2013 which informed him of the requirement to secure a bond. Selectman Brian Falvey told Donald that it was not the town’s job to ensure that every business in town knows all of its legal responsibilities.
Donald said that he has been trying to obtain a bond all along and had been in contact with 20 different bond companies. He said that he had difficulty obtaining a bond because of financial hardship due to the license suspension, which prevented him from selling vehicles.
“I take full responsibility for the time it’s taken to get the bond,” Donald said. “I shouldn’t have waited so long. I have the bond now and it will never happen again.”
Selectman Betsy Sheeran told Donald that she understood financial hardship but it was his responsibility to investigate what he needed to conduct business. “Now we find ourselves in a position where someone is threatening a suit against us,” she said. She told Donald that he had put the board in a difficult position.
In response to a question from Falvey, Maio reiterated that despite multiple attempts his office had difficulty getting a response from Donald until he was informed that there would be a meeting to revoke his license.
Falvey said that Donald had disrespected the town by ignoring its requests. He said that the town goes out of its way to help businesses, but Donald’s inaction had put the board in its current position.
Hull said that while what Donald had done was wrong, she would not vote to revoke his license. “I would vote to give you another chance,” she told Donald.
Mullen said that if the board were inclined toward leniency, it should indicate to Donald that settling the $11,000 court judgment must occur before any consideration would be given to re-instating the license.
Donald claimed that he was hearing of the $11,000 court judgment for the first time.
Falvey told Donald that he didn’t believe that he was lying or cheating anyone, but that he was naïve about running a business. “You should consider doing something else,” Falvey said.
“We don’t take any pleasure in this at all,” said Selectman Patrick Glynn, who made the motion to revoke the license.
The board voted to revoke Donald’s license, with Hull abstaining.