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Former car dealer sues former councilwoman

Another dispute between the former owner of a car dealership and a former Charleston city councilwoman has ended up in court.

Pete Lopez filed a lawsuit last week against Ditty Markham in Kanawha Circuit Court, claiming letters she wrote to 19 people in June damaged his reputation and ruined future business opportunities.

Lopez previously owned City Motors Inc. in Kanawha City. Markham represented Kanawha City on city council for eight years.

Markham allegedly sent the letters after learning of a potential business deal between Lopez and one of the people she wrote to, according to the complaint. The alleged letter was intended to thwart Lopez in his business dealings by disparaging him to a potential business associate and others in the community, the lawsuit states.

“At one point, Lopez literally came after me,” Markham wrote, according to the lawsuit filed Aug. 25. “I saw two large men at my door and opened it slightly (something I would never do today) to see what they wanted. Lopez pushed the door open and me aside, and he and the other man entered my living room. He threatened me to stay out of his business. I was very frightened and ordered him to leave immediately, or I would call the police.”

Lopez alleged that Markham wrote that he was “truly a thug who ignores respectful behavior,” and wrote, “I can assure you that his business will not be an asset to Kanawha City.” Markham also wrote, according to the suit, that Lopez’s wife didn’t have an easy life, “being married to this bully.”

All of the statements are false, according to the complaint filed by Lopez’s attorney Stephen Gaylock. Lopez has lost business prospects and suffered emotional distress, among other things, according to the suit. He wants to be compensated for those losses and awarded an amount that would punish Markham.

Markham, a retired Kanawha County school counselor and former Kanawha school board member, said last week the conflict developed when she recently rejoined the Kanawha City Community Association. She added she would love to talk about the allegations in the lawsuit, but her attorney, Jim Cagle, advised her not to. She has not filed a response to the lawsuit.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Carrie Webster.

Lopez said last week that he was surprised to be in another conflict with Markham — 12 years after he accused her of stalking and intimidating him. That charge was dismissed by a magistrate.

In 2002, Lopez filed a magistrate court complaint, alleging Markham “repeatedly stalked and intimidated” him, his wife and employees while disrupting his business, according to Gazette reports at the time.

Lopez, whose business was in Markham’s district, wanted a “peace bond” to keep Markham from coming near him or his business.

Markham had consistently complained about the way the cars are parked at Lopez’s business, saying many are illegally parked and block drivers’ views. Lopez said in the 2002 complaint that he had seen Markham on his property after business hours inspecting the vehicles. She denied visiting his business.

Magistrate Tim Halloran dismissed the charge.

This is the first time since 2002 Markham and Lopez have dealt with each other, they both said.

Reach Kate White


304-348-1723, or follow @KateLWhite on Twitter.

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