A Washington County Circuit Court judge has signed an order that requires Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II to pay more than $80,000 owed to a local businessman, property owner and landlord.
The debt is from a 2008 loan on which Bruchey and the former owner of Hagerstown Motors defaulted.
In the order signed Aug. 14, Circuit Judge John H. McDowell ordered the mayor to pay $80,714.05 to Biltrite Homes Corp., a local real estate investment firm owned by Vincent R. Groh.
The amount Bruchey was ordered to pay includes $55,191.04 in principal on a $60,000 loan, $16,979.76 in interest accrued as of July 31, plus $8,278 in attorney’s fees.
Bruchey has 30 days from the day he was served notice of the judgment to appeal, according to court papers.
“It’s a private matter that revolves around the business, and has nothing to do with the City of Hagerstown,” Bruchey said when contacted by telephone Wednesday.
A copy of the promissory note contained in the civil case file bears the signatures of Bruchey and Michael Wayne Griffith, who owned the now-defunct Hagerstown Motors used car dealership at the intersection of Virginia Avenue and Halfway Boulevard in Halfway.
Both Bruchey and Groh said Groh expected no favors in return for the loan co-signed by the mayor.
“I got nothing,” Groh said. “Of course, he doesn’t have any authority anyway. He doesn’t even have a vote.”
Bruchey said that by co-signing the loan he was just “helping a friend keep his business open.” He said Griffith had attempted to secure a loan through a local bank before going to Groh, but the dealership had not been making enough money to qualify for a conventional business loan.
“It was purely the fact that I knew Vince, Mr. Groh, and I knew that Mike, Mr. Griffith, needed some help,” he said. “And I cordoned him in that direction. I figured that if Mr. Groh could help, he would. And he did.
“No good deed goes unpunished, I guess,” Bruchey said. “Let’s put it that way.”
Bruchey, who when Hagerstown Motors closed in late October 2009 described himself as the manager of the used-car dealership, said he personally knew Groh and was aware that Groh had given loans to other small businesses that were struggling.
Griffith asked Bruchey to set up a meeting with Groh to try to secure a loan that would help the dealership get back on its feet, Bruchey said.
Biltrite, which owned hundreds of acres of land that was sold for the Centre at Hagerstown shopping center on Garland Groh Boulevard as well as the approximately 400-home planned housing community behind it, has issued about “six or seven” mortgage loans in the past with mixed results, Groh said.
When the mayor approached Groh about acquiring the loan in 2008, Groh said, Bruchey mentioned that Biltrite was involved in the Centre at Hagerstown, and that Groh had made a large amount of money on the sale of land for the complex.
“He said, ‘Look at all the money you made on that. I’m entitled to some of that,’” Groh said. “And he didn’t do a thing about it. He didn’t put up a dime for that whole development.”
Bruchey called Groh’s comments about what the mayor said when he approached Groh for the loan “unbelievable.”
“I can’t fathom where that comes from,” he said.