Despite some confusion over its name and misinformation from the state, a new business in Federal Way is finally off and running.

King County Auction set out to begin doing business in August 1999, when it acquired a business license and inquired about the need for a vehicle auction license. When representatives of the company contacted the Washington Department of Licensing, they were a special license was not needed. To be on the safe side, company officials contacted the DOL a second time and were told the same thing.

“We made it clear to the Department of Licensing that we would be auctioning cars,” recalls Harvard E. “Pete” Palmer, advertising agent for King County Auction and is a stockholder in the parent company, Nevada-based Vehicle Auctions LLC.

The company held its first public auction March 25. Around May 1, Palmer says, the company was contacted by the DOL. King County Auction needed an auction license, company officials were told.

Company officials explained that they’d been told—by the DOL, no less—that an auction license wasn’t needed because the auctions were being conducted by individuals with licenses.

“We have licensed auctioneers who do all the talking,” Palmer explains.

Even if they were using licensed auctioneers, DOL said, King County Auction must have a license, as well. DOL gave the company a two-week to get one. The company needed every second of it.

A $25,000 bond is required for an auction license, observes Palmer, and there’s an ungodly amount of paperwork that’s required. The company succeeded in getting it all taken care of by the May 15 deadline, says Palmer.

“We have the bond now,” he says.

Palmer says he’s grateful the DOL did not levy any fines or penalties against the company. He doesn’t harbor any ill will toward DOL for supplying inaccurate information, he adds.

Government employees have much work to do, he says philosophically, and errors are bound to occur occasionally.

Then a new problem cropped up. Someone has complained to King County government that the company’s name is deceptive—that it implies the company’s auctions were conducted by the county.

Do people assume the Seattle Times is published in city hall, he wonders, or Alaska Airlines is owned by the State of Alaska? There are a lot of companies named for the places where they do business, he muses.

Nevermind the fact that the company logo bears an official-looking badge and gavel.

Palmer points out that newspaper ads heralding the first two auctions held by the company clearly included a Vehicle Auctions LLC copyright. But to avoid further confusion, Palmer says, future ads will include a disclaimer stating that the company is not affiliated with King County government.

When the company realized that its web page did not contain such a disclaimer, he adds, one was added there as well.

By John Larson, Business Examiner staff