FLINT TWP. – Circuit Court Judge Geoffrey Neithercut has overturned an order by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson which suspended the dealership license of Patsy Lou Chevrolet in Flint Township for 15 days.
The dealership had its dealer license suspended for 15 days, Friday morning, which would not allow it to buy, sell or trade vehicles. Johnson imposed the suspension because of what she claims are repeated violations, found as a result of inspections and consumer complaints, for not providing titles to buyers as required by law.
“Despite multiple attempts to address the dealership’s violations without a suspension, the owner and the department were unable to reach an agreement, and Department of State staff then was forced to seek this penalty,” said Johnson in a press release. “Our duty is to protect consumers by holding dealers accountable for their actions. State law applies equally to all auto dealers, whether they’re small used-car lots or large new-vehicle dealerships. No dealer is above the law.”
Neithercut overturned the Secretary of State’s order Friday afternoon in an emergency stay of enforcement. He ordered the Secretary of State’s Office to reactivate its dealer license plates, process all vehicle sales as normal and remove signage about the license suspension from the dealership.
Neithercut’s order does not offer the reasoning or legal basis he considered to reach his decision.
A state administrative law examiner today ordered the suspension, which was supposed to run through May 25.
In the most recent complaint lodged against the dealership, the Department of State’s Office of Investigative Services heard from a consumer in December 2016 who said she hadn’t received a title for her vehicle, said officials at the Secretary of State.
An investigation found that not only had the buyer not received the title after two months, but also that the paperwork submitted after the sale by the dealership contained false information.
Additionally, the dealership gave the buyer a dealer plate in the interim because she was unable to title and register her vehicle to get a license plate. Dealer plates are supposed to be used only by the dealership for business purposes.
The Department of State previously had received similar no-title complaints from customers about not receiving a title that resulted in a 12-month probation for the dealership beginning in May 2015 and 24-month Assurance of Discontinuance, which is a formal agreement that the dealership will comply with state law, beginning in February 2014.
State law requires a dealer to make an application for title and registration within 15 days of delivery of the vehicle. Without a valid title, the buyer won’t be able to prove ownership of the vehicle and won’t be able to register it to get a license plate.
Consumers who have a complaint against Patsy Lou Chevrolet are encouraged to call the Office of Investigative Services automotive complaint line at 517-335-1410.
Calls to the Patsy Lou Williamson Dealership were not immediately returned.
Patsy Lou Chevrolet is operated by Patsy Lou Williamson and Ted Merrill Gans.