A Hanover County leader has sued a state auto dealer lobbying group along with its leader in a multimillion-dollar complaint stemming from accusations of fraud and defamation.
Sean M. Davis, the supervisor for the county’s Henry District, is seeking $2.35 million in compensatory and punitive damages from the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association and Donald Hall, the lobbying group’s president and CEO.
Davis, a former employee of the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association, alleges the organization and Hall committed two types of fraud, breach of contract, wrongful discharge and defamation in its employment and termination of Davis. The lawsuit, first reported by Richmond BizSense, was filed in January in Richmond Circuit Court.
Hall denied Davis’ allegations in an interview Tuesday afternoon, calling them “categorically untrue” and that plans call for filing for a dismissal of Davis’ suit. Speaking for both himself and the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association, Hall said he was not aware of any dissatisfaction Davis may have had with his job at the auto dealers association.
“He did not talk to HR at VADA,” Hall said. “I have an email about how much he loves his job from February 2016.”
In an interview Tuesday, Davis said he did enjoy working for the members of the auto dealers association.
According to the suit, Davis worked for the auto dealers association as its director of dealer operations from May 2014 to December 2016. The Virginia Automobile Dealers Association is a trade association representing franchised new car and truck dealers.
Davis was allegedly aggressively recruited to work at the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association while working as a real estate agent making $200,000 a year, according to Davis’ complaint. Taking the job with the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association meant Davis took a $75,000 pay cut. Davis signed on with the association believing he would eventually get a raise and succeed Hall as president and CEO, according to the lawsuit.
But that wasn’t how things played out, according to the suit.
“Davis routinely dipped into his savings to set off what he was told would be a temporary difference in income,” the lawsuit reads. “Davis acted in good faith reliance on Hall by accepting employment with the VADA and by using and depleting his savings to come to VADA and to continue employment. Unbeknownst to Davis, Hall had no intention of closing the pay gap or promoting Davis.”
Hall said he was incensed at the notion that he planned to retire anytime soon. Hall said he did not “aggressively recruit” Davis; rather, Hall was impressed with Davis’ energy level and enthusiasm.
“I didn’t recruit him,” Hall said. “I didn’t really have much information on him. I figured he’d been elected, so I didn’t really do a vigorous background check.”
Hall said both he and Davis served in the U.S. Marine Corps and that he never disliked Davis. Hall said Davis was ultimately let go simply because Davis wasn’t fitting in and lacked the necessary experience.
According to Davis’ lawsuit, he was given a severance agreement and general release from the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association after about 2½ years of employment.
Davis’ eventual termination is alleged to be retaliation by Hall and the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association against Davis. Hall allegedly defamed Davis by making the statement that the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association “had to let Sean Davis go.”
“By implying, inferring or insinuating that Davis was terminated for cause, Hall intentionally set out to destroy Davis’ reputation by creating a permanent black mark on Davis’ otherwise untarnished employment record,” the suit reads.
Davis’ complaint against Hall and the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association isn’t the only pending lawsuit the Hanover supervisor has in court.
In April, Davis sued Style Weekly, Landmark Media Enterprises LLC and Peter Galuszka for allegedly defaming him and sought $1.35 million in damages.
In a response, Landmark and Galuszka countered and denied Davis’ assertions.