Gas station closes, but fight with Exxon continues

August 14, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

Jim Munroe, the Pasadena service station operator who took on oil giant Exxon, has closed the doors of his gas station at Jumpers Hole Road and Ritchie Highway and opened a repair shop in Annapolis.

But he insisted this week that he has not given up the fight.

Mr. Munroe said Wednesday that he left the station July 10 as the result of a feud with Exxon over gas deliveries, rent increases and payment problems.

He opened an automotive repair shop and towing service on Riverview Avenue in Annapolis in the last few weeks and is still pursuing his battle with the oil company in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, where his suit is pending.

Mr. Munroe said his problems with Exxon started four years ago when he was operating two of the company's gasoline stations, one on Ritchie Highway and another at Jumpers Hole and Mountain roads in Sun Valley.

He said he began buying gasoline from independent oil companies and selling it for less than the Exxon brands.

Mr. Munroe put notices on the gas pumps informing customers that the gasoline was not an Exxon product.

Shortly afterward, Exxon quadrupled the rent on his Sun Valley station, cut off fuel deliveries and delayed reimbursing him for credit card purchases, he claimed.

Mr. Munroe sued Exxon, and Exxon sued him, charging that he had not paid his bills.

Mr. Munroe closed the Sun Valley station and filed for protection from his creditors under federal bankruptcy laws because he couldn't afford to pay his payroll taxes.

During the proceedings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore, Mr. Munroe and Exxon were ordered to work out their differences.

Exxon lost its attempt to evict Mr. Munroe from the Ritchie Highway station and was ordered not to threaten Mr. Munroe's gas suppliers.

At the same time, Mr. Munroe was ordered to pay the bills he owed Exxon.

The parties were supposed to meet regularly and work out a payment plan and rent agreement, but Mr. Munroe said they were not able to reach an agreement.

Les Rogers, an Exxon spokesman in Houston, said Mr. Munroe failed to pay $51,653 that he owed the company, but he could not say why payments were not made.

Mr. Rogers said Mr. Munroe did not notify Exxon when he left the Ritchie Highway station, and the company did not know why he left.

Mr. Rogers said Exxon learned on July 13 of the station's abandonment and took steps to secure it.

The spokesman said the station will remain closed until Exxon can decide what it will do with the property.

Mr. Munroe said he decided to leave the station while he still had the resources to open a new business and to continue to pay the legal fees to fight Exxon in court.

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