A judge Wednesday slammed the brakes on an effort by new car dealers to prevent a used car dealers’ trade show.
The dispute arose because of two shows scheduled at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds, one this weekend, the other next weekend.
Three new car dealers - McCollum Ford, Dishman Dodge and George Gee - sued Spokane County, saying the fairgrounds violated a non-competing policy when it scheduled a used car show the weekend before theirs.
The dealers said they’d lose money because their show, Prime Time, would be pre-empted by Super Sale ‘97, a used car show sponsored by the Eastern Washington chapter of the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA).
At issue was whether the county has a firm policy on whether competing fairgrounds shows can be held days or weeks apart.
While the county has informally tried to avoid conflicts, there is no written policy, Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza ruled Wednesday.
Bryce Wilcox, the new car dealers’ attorney, argued that such a policy was instituted by the Spokane Interstate Fair Board, which was given that power by county commissioners.
“The permit granted to the NIADA is null and void,” Wilcox said.
Attorney Terry Lackie, representing the county, said the fair board’s role is advisory, and the power to set fairgrounds policy rests with commissioners. A non-competing policy has never been presented to commissioners for review, Lackie said.
“This is an attempt on their part to cut out another entity from putting on a show,” Lackie said of the new car dealers.
The judge’s ruling brought sighs of relief from used car dealers gathered in the courtroom.
“They had me on pins and needles for a week,” said Sam Pauley, manager of Truckland in the Valley and chairman of Super Sale ‘97.
Pauley said the 24 used car dealers who have been planning this show for months stood to lose between $300,000 and $400,000 in profits if the show was canceled. About $36,000 has been spent promoting the event, Pauley said.
“All the advertising’s gone up. All the billboards are in place,” Pauley said.
Wilcox said his clients, who have held the Prime Time show for years, still have the option of suing the county for damages if they lose sales to the other show.