In August 2002, a K&K Auto employee, Crystal Napier of Ranger, videotaped a fight between herself and Parsons, according to a criminal complaint in Cabell County court. Parsons jerked the camera away and removed the tape. State Police arrived a short time later and demanded the video.
"It's gone," said Parsons, according to the trooper who made the arrest.
The trooper arrested Parsons on an obstruction of justice charge. The charge was dismissed, however, after the officer failed to appear at Parsons' court hearing.
Five years earlier, Sammons Trucking filed a lawsuit in Lincoln County Circuit Court claiming a former business owned by Parsons and his wife, Cynthia — Salt Rock Auto — ripped them off.
According to the lawsuit, Parsons charged the company $2,369 for repairs to a truck trailer's steel support leg.
But later, workers found that "no repairs were made to the trailer," and "it appeared a landing-gear leg had been deliberately cut off," costing the company $4,056 to repair, according to the lawsuit.
The Parsonses denied the charges and filed a counter-suit. The lawsuits went into mediation and never went to trial, according to a court official.
Ford Motor Credit Co. filed another lawsuit against Parsons in August, trying to recover about $7,000 he allegedly owes on his personal 2000 Ford F-350 pickup.
Hefty profit made on car sales,
Parsons said he does not pay workers' compensation or unemployment insurance. He said his employees were "contract workers" and are exempt from such payments. Former employees say they were always paid in cash.
Parsons also said he didn't need a dealers' license, even though he bought and sold dozens of cars last year.
He paid for the cars at auto auctions, then resold them to the foundation after making sure they were safe and roadworthy, he said.
"They actually bought the cars," he said. "I just fronted the money."
Parsons said he sometimes went to auctions in Kentucky and Charleston with Richards, the foundation's Wheels manager in central West Virginia.
Parsons said he met Richards through the program two years ago, and they've become good friends. Richards often "hung out" at the garage, Parsons said, but did no special favors for K&K Auto.
"He came down on me harder than all the other garages put together," Parsons said. "That's business. He makes it rough."
Richards could not be reached for comment.
Two former employees say Parsons made a hefty profit on car sales to the foundation.
Napier, a Wheels-to-Work participant hired by Parsons to work at the garage, said she accompanied Parsons to several auto auctions, mostly in Ashland, Ky. He bought the cars for as little as $800, then sold them to the foundation, sometimes at twice the price he paid for them, Napier said.
Napier quit her job at K&K after about five months, citing health reasons. Parsons said he fired her.
Another former employee, Bud Jones, said Parsons made an average of $500 to $1,000 on each car sold to the foundation. Jones, who helped Parsons keep the garage's books, is suing Parsons because, he says, his former boss refuses to return equipment that belongs to him.
Parsons said he made $200 to $300 per car, plus he received extra money to rehabilitate the vehicles.
When the foundation decided to get rid of some cars, Parsons bought at least 160 for as little as $100 each, he said.
He recently offered to sell those same cars for more than $1,000 each to a Sunday Gazette-Mail reporter.
In addition to car sales and repairs, Parsons repossessed cars for the program — about 100 by his own estimation. He got his license to repossess and tow cars after a foundation employee asked him to do it, he said.
"I got every car they sent me after," Parsons said.
MONDAY IN THE CHARLESTON GAZETTE: Complaints mount over the Wheels-to-Work program.
To contact staff writers Eric Eyre and Scott Finn, use e-mail or call 348-4869 or 357-4323.