Va. Senate candidate draws heat for small-business legal dispute

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Asked about the terms of the agreement, Parrish Chief Operating Officer Linda Couch said, “The terms are it’s a sealed settlement. We’re not at liberty to discuss the terms.”

An attorney for Parrish said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case in general.

Mr. Mitchell also said he could not discuss the case.

“There was a suit, there was a countersuit, both parties involved reached a mutually agreeable settlement, and that was the end of it,” he said.

The complaints

According to court records, the lawsuit was filed on April 30, 2010. It says Mr. Mitchell violated the terms of employment agreements he signed Oct. 21, 2008, saying he would protect Manassas, Va.-based Parrish Services‘ confidential information and trade secrets during and after his employment, and that he would not own a company “in substantial competition” within 50 miles of Manassas for at least two years.

But in court papers, Mr. Mitchell admitted to organizing Modern Mechanical while he was still employed at Parrish and before giving his intent to end his employment.

Mr. Mitchell filed paperwork for his company on March 10, 2010, according to the Virginia State Corporation Commission.

In court papers, he said he resigned from his position with Parrish on April 10, 2010. Modern’s first day of operations was April 19, and the company first received revenue from the operation two days later. Parrish filed suit in Prince William County Circuit Court on April 30, 2010.

Mr. Mitchell conceded that he signed an agreement but disputed that it was the one referenced in court papers. He said he did know about marketing strategies and denied breaching trade secrets. His attorneys also said in court papers that the agreement was unenforceable because of the vague definition of “in substantial competition.”

He acknowledged in court papers that he offered jobs to three of Parrish’s employees but maintained that they were offered more senior positions at Modern than they held at Parrish — a stipulation that made the offers legally permissible, his attorneys argued.

Although the company serves the community of Ashburn — well within 50 miles of Manassas — Modern Mechanical is registered to an address in Richmond, according to state records.

Mr. Mitchell, in response to the lawsuit, filed a counterclaim in May 2010 accusing Parrish of defamation, denying that he ever served as an officer of Parrish or that he formed Modern Mechanical for the purpose of competing with Parrish.

Mr. Frias said Mr. Mitchell had given him paperwork to establish the Ashburn address as the primary one for the business, and that it should have been filed some time ago but must have gotten lost in the paper shuffle.

The Richmond address “was a decision that was made some time ago when it was first established,” Mr. Frias said.

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