AC units threaten
to ice Chevron deal

If the deal is annulled, the suit
against former dealer Frank
Young would go to trial

By Tim Ruel

A passing dispute over two air-conditioning units has escalated into a potential breakdown of a legal settlement between Chevron Corp. and Frank Young, a former Chevron gasoline dealer and leading critic of the company.

Young's attorney, Eric A. Seitz, has asked the U.S. District Court for an order that would vacate the settlement and impose sanctions on Chevron for allegedly violating the deal, according to a motion filed Friday. A hearing has been scheduled for June 20 before Magistrate Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi.

Chevron attorney Michael Lam declined comment yesterday.

Three years ago, Chevron sued to evict Young from a Kakaako gas station run by his family since 1953, alleging that Young had violated the lease by running his station outside of operating hours. Young countersued, alleging that Chevron was punishing him for his criticism of the company's policies in Hawaii, a charge that Chevron denied.

As part of the settlement, reached last year, Chevron and Young signed a confidentiality agreement.

Young walked away from the gas station Jan. 15 in keeping with the settlement, but left behind two air-conditioning units that he had purchased recently for $600 total.

Chevron owns the station, and under its lease agreements, dealers must remove personal property when a lease is ended.

In a letter dated Feb. 14, Lam told Seitz that Young could retrieve the air-conditioning units but would have to pay for removing them.

Then, a March 3 article by the Star-Bulletin quoted Chevron spokesman Albert Chee as saying that Chevron would not have sued to evict Young in the first place, had Young merely complied with the proper hours of operating the station.

"Frank was given the benefit of the ample time to correct it," Chee said at the time. "If he just went and corrected it, it probably would have been OK. He chose not to correct it."

Seitz immediately asked the court for sanctions, alleging Chee violated the settlement's confidentiality agreement.

In a March 22 letter to Judge Kobayashi, Lam denied that Chee had broken the settlement. "The scope of the confidentiality provision went to the amount of money paid by Chevron," Lam wrote. "Accordingly, there has been no breach of the settlement agreement in any way, whatsoever."

In the same letter, Lam deemed the air-conditioning units as having been "abandoned" by Young, and that Chevron was free to dispose of them.

After a May 8 hearing, Seitz spoke to Lam about returning the air-conditioners, and Lam said he'd get back to Seitz within a day or two, according to Seitz' court motion.

Seitz said he left several phone messages last week for Lam, but didn't receive any more information. Seitz estimates he has had made at least 20 calls to Lam's office this year regarding closure of the settlement, and that he has racked up a total of $3,500 in legal fees. "I don't know what else to ask for," Seitz said. "I've tried to do everything else."

During the May 8 hearing, Kobayashi did not order Chevron to reimburse Seitz specifically for the costs of dealing with Chee's comments. Seitz had been seeking $1,200, he said.

Seitz is now asking that the court either vacate the settlement, or force Chevron to pay all of the fees and costs. If the settlement is annulled, Young would get his gas station back, and the lawsuits would proceed to trial, Seitz said.

"What they really ought to do is come to their senses and resolve this," Seitz said.

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