WASHINGTON -- Tom Ganley, an Ohio dealer running for Congress against Rep. Betty Sutton, faces two new lawsuits about his professional conduct that have drawn an unwelcome media spotlight to his campaign.
Ganley, a 67-year old Republican who sits on the National Automobile Dealers Association board, is contesting the suits.
In one, his former in-house lawyer, Russell Harris, alleged he was fired after confronting Ganley about the dealer's testimony in arbitration last spring.
Harris, 62, had worked for Ganley for 25 years. Ganley testified that his sales suffered because Chrysler delivered hundreds of unordered or deficient vehicles to his dealerships, the complaint said.
The arbitrator conferred with Harris and suspended the hearing to give Chrysler a chance to respond, the suit filed last month said.
Harris contended he contacted a number of people who might serve as witnesses but couldn't substantiate Ganley's claim.
After testifying, Ganley contacted several employees, including his two sons, according to the complaint.
The public suit doesn't allege what Ganley discussed with these employees.
Harris' lawyer, Andrew Kabat, said in an interview that these discussions are detailed in a sealed claim filed by Harris with the state court.
Ganley's lawyer in the Harris suit, Brent Buckley of Cleveland, said the claim “appears to us to be a case of an unhappy, dismissed employee.”
Ganley maintains he fired Harris “on the spot for some of his conduct and performance at the arbitration,” Buckley said.
Ganley sought arbitration to try to win reinstatement of his three closed Chrysler dealerships. He withdrew his bid after the hearing began but before the arbitrator ruled.
In the end, Ganley agreed to a settlement with Chrysler.
A second lawsuit
Ganley also was sued last month by a job candidate who alleged she was offered a dealership position on the implied condition that she perform sexual favors for him.
The suit by the woman, a 39-year-old married mother of four, said she rejected Ganley's overture and that the dealer withdrew his job offer.
“I deny every allegation made in this baseless lawsuit,” Ganley said in a statement. “I will not allow this lawsuit to distract from the issues with my campaign for Congress, as I've done nothing wrong.”
Buckley said the woman's suit is “nothing more than an effort to discredit him. We don't know why.”
Both suits seek more than $25,000 in damages. They have drawn considerable press coverage in the Cleveland area as the Nov. 2 election looms.
An Oct. 1 posting near the top of the “Tom Ganley for U.S. Congress” Web site responded to a Cleveland Plain Dealer report about one of the suits by saying the campaign “will not be derailed or distracted by a baseless lawsuit.”
Ganley is largely financing his own campaign against Sutton, a Democrat.
She successfully championed dealer interests by authoring the cash-for-clunkers bill and pushing for dealer-arbitration legislation.
Ganley has drawn criticism from some dealers for assailing cash for clunkers in his campaign after participating in the program and selling vehicles valued at $20 million total.
NADA is neutral on the Ganley-Sutton election, having contributed $10,000 to each candidate. An NADA spokesman declined comment on the suits.
Ganley has been on the NADA board since 2005.
Ganley Auto Group in the Cleveland area is one of the biggest dealer businesses dealership groups in Ohio. It has 28 franchises -- including Toyota, Ford, Chevrolet and Volkswagen -- at 17 locations.