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Civic Skinny

Marty Tirrell sues.


Marty Tirrell, the very loud sports-radio guy, is suing the owners of Toyota of Des Moines, the car dealership that housed his radio show on 1700 AM. He says his deal was supposed to run through 2014 but that on Nov. 2 the dealership’s lawyer sent him a letter canceling the deal.

But — as with all things Tirrell — it’s not that straightforward. Murky might be the word.

The suit, filed on Valentine’s Day in Polk County District Court, includes two letters from Toyota that Tirrell views as contracts.

One problem: Neither is a document signed by Tirrell. Rather, both are “To Whom It May Concern” letters from Toyota. The first, dated in November of 2010, tells “to whom it may concern” that Tirrell at the time had a three-year contract — but that’s probably not very helpful to his case, since it says the contract ran through Aug. 31, 2012. The second, undated, says that Tirrell has been “a very valuable asset to business” and that “Toyota of Des Moines has every intention to keep his services for years to come.” Well, almost every intention.

Another problem: The letters are signed by Steve Luebke.

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Steve Luebke was the general manager of Toyota of Des Moines, but he’s no longer there. Presumably, he’s no longer there because in mid-November — a week or so after the Toyota lawyer killed Tirrell’s deal — he was picked up for his fourth drunk-driving arrest. His court date is set for early March. That fourth arrest came on the heels of his calling the police to report that his car — oddly, a Lexus — had been stolen. In fact, he had left it at a bar, and he was charged with making a false report to law-enforcement authorities. He pleaded guilty to an amended charge of false information, but presumably because of the latest drunk-driving arrest the Department of Corrections filed for probation revocation. That hearing is scheduled for this week, according to Iowa Courts Online.               

But enough about Steve Luebke and his troubles. Back to Marty Tirrell and his deal with Toyota.                

It was a sweet deal.                

According to the lawsuit, he was getting $38,250 a month. Or maybe $30,000 a month. Or maybe $39,000 a month. It depends on which paragraph of the lawsuit you read. Or maybe a combination of those. If it was $39,000, “approximately $9,860” of that went to him while, presumably, at least some of the rest went to pay 1700 AM — a 10,000-watt station known as The Champ — for the air time he purchased for his daily show.                

“The deal papers lack the clarity and essential terms you would expect in a six-figure commercial transaction,” said a lawyer that Skinny turned to in confusion, “perhaps highlighting the fact it was negotiated and documented by a car salesman and a radio talk show host.”                

But maybe some of the sums was earmarked for lawyers, for the 53-year-old Tirrell occasionally is sued — or sues — in connection with his shows and activities. Among other things, he periodically arranges trips to sporting events. The suits indicate he is not a detail man.                

At any rate, life goes on. Tirrell now is on at least the fourth station since he came to town a decade or so ago, 1490 AM, a 500-watt station in Indianola that calls itself The Jock, and the Toyota suit now is on file. The plaintiffs are Tirrell and his companies, MT Sports LLC, Iowa Independent Sports Syndicators LLC, and Mouth of the Midwest LLC. The defendant is Charles Gabus Motors Inc., doing business as Toyota of Des Moines Inc. Tirrell’s lawyer is Steve Hamilton of Storm Lake.                

They’ve asked for a jury trial.               

Jurors should bring their earplugs. …                

This just in. A guy was watching Channel 13 the other evening and heard this banter between newscasters:

“Any other tips, Jodi, for those not watching the news….”                

Think about it. …                

Back to car dealers and lawsuits. …               

Max Holmes was sued the other day in Federal District Court here by a St. Paul company he lined up to be a dealer for automobiles made in China and distributed in the U.S. by China Car Distributors Inc. China Car Distributors is or was a company Holmes started in 2005. Apparently, though, China Car Distributors never distributed any cars.               

There have been a handful of lawsuits involving the importation of cars from China. This time, the Minnesota plaintiffs say they paid $180,000 as a franchise fee in 2007 and entered a “dealer sales and service agreement” with Holmes’ company. The problem:                

China Car Distributors “did not provide any imported vehicles” to the Minnesota dealer.                

The Holmes family, which has sold everything from Kaisers and Fraziers and Tuckers to Oldsmobiles and Hondas and Hyundais, now owns Holmes Chevrolet in Norwalk. …                

Now this:                

“OK,” says a note from a person familiar with The Des Moines Register newsroom, “I have this from two sources, so you can go with it…. Because of the imminent move of the Register, they have stopped replacing lightbulbs that burn out in the newsroom. I’m not kidding. A friend says the room is noticeably darker.”                

Two sources or not, Skinny — reluctantly — checked it out.                

“Light bulbs? Are you kidding me?” Register editor Rick Green responded. “You can quote me: ‘If there is a lightbulb that is out and needs replaced, a Register staffer should mention it to the editor and not Cityview.’ We are replacing light bulbs…and still taking out the trash, and cleaning bathrooms and putting out a damn good newspaper every day, too. Honestly, it’s the first I’ve heard about it. I will check around. But there is no no-new-light bulbs policy.”               


Alas because Skinny assumed it was the dim light that explains how editors let slip through an editorial favoring the closing and erasure of arrest records of juveniles while espousing openness and transparency in everything else — as they have done for decades.              

Either that or the fact that an editorial writer’s teenage son was arrested last summer. CV

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