License suspension hearing set for used car dealer

Jan 11, 2018 by

Published in the January 11, 2018 edition

By MAUREEN DOHERTY

NORTH READING — Based on allegations of potential violations of the Class II used car dealers license held by A1 Auto Sales of 144 Main St., the Board of Selectmen voted Monday night to schedule a suspension/revocation hearing at its next meeting on Monday, Jan. 22 at 8:45 p.m.

However, the three voting members declined a second request by Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto for an immediate interim suspension of that license prior to the hearing. Selectmen Andrew Schultz, Kathryn Manupelli and Bob Mauceri agreed that a lack of an advance written notice from the town to A1 Auto Sales regarding the board’s intention to discuss the potential immediate suspension of the license was not in the best interests of the A1’s right to due process.

“I am very troubled by the allegations that I read but I am also very troubled by the lack of notice,” Schultz said.

Both Selectmen Chairman Mike Prisco and Selectman Steven O’Leary recused themselves from voting on the matter. O’Leary stated he has a family member who holds a Class II license in town and therefore would not be participating in the discussion or voting on it, as he always does whenever matters concerning used car licenses and dealers come before the board.

Prisco’s affiliation is a little more distant as he stated his brother-in-law, who lives in another town, is next door neighbors to an employee of A1 Auto Sales therefore he did not want an appearance of a conflict. He abstained from voting but did ask the town administrator questions about what the board was being asked to do and why.

Gilleberto explained that these requests were being made based on information the town received after the agenda was published on Wednesday. Town Hall was also closed on Wednesday night due to the emergency water shutdown on Lowell Road requiring extensive nighttime repairs by the DPW and Town Hall was also closed all day Thursday due to the blizzard, both of which contributed to the shortened timeline in getting a timely notice to the car dealer.

Reading from a prepared memo, Gilleberto explained that he had been informed by Police Chief Michael Murphy of six “potential violations, problems and issues” at A1 Auto Sales as follows:

• “Violation of license conditions” which limit it to six vehicles while “well over 20” vehicles are on site and advertised for sale online

• “Deceptive practices, misrepresentation of vehicle condition and mileage”

• “Violation of Class II licensing statutes: Keeping accurate record books on premises for inspection by authorities [G.L. c.140, sec. 62] and Obstructing or hindering authorized inspection [G.L. c.140, sec. 67] – failure to provide current records, misrepresenting that not titles were on premises”

• “Multiple consumer complaints filed with the Attorney General’s office in 2017”

• “Failure to post the ‘Lemon Law’ and warranty info on vehicles for sale.”

Based on this information, the T.A. stated that he was recommending the board immediately suspend the Class II license “through the conclusion of the hearing” because doing so would be in the “interest of protecting the public, specifically potentially vehicle-purchasing consumers.” He offered to present “more complete” information to the board at the hearing on Jan. 22.

Schultz stated that despite the seriousness of the allegations he “was a little leery of suspending the license right now without these folks present” because everyone also has due process rights, therefore he could not support the immediate suspension of the license.

That being said, Schultz also noted that after this agenda item was posted he received a phone call from “a consumer in town that bought a car from this premises that arguably was a lemon, had to take the individual to court, won the case and this very same car is still on their website for sale. That’s a phone call I got today. If that’s true, it’s very disconcerting. We want to make sure the public is protected.”

Manupelli agreed with Schultz and added if other members believed that consumers needed to be protected immediately then the board should call a special hearing for the interim suspension. They opted to wait the two weeks to their next meeting instead.

Mauceri asked the T.A. about the history of A-1 Auto Sales and if there had been other violations. Gilleberto said the history for the current license holder was “brief” as the board “issued a license to a new license holder at that location in March of 2015.” Gilleberto added that he could not recall “regularly” receiving any complaints about the number of vehicles on the site, but this could be partly attributed to the fact that the vehicles are stored behind a solid fence. “I can’t think of any other violations. These all came to light at the same time,” Gilleberto said.

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