By Shawn Regan
---- — HAVERHILL — A local used-car dealer escaped possible disciplinary action last night when two customers with complaints against him failed to show at a License Commission meeting.
After listening to Robert Kalil’s version of the disputes, the commission voted to bring the used-car dealer back to their May meeting and take up the complaints against him then. In the meantime, police will to attempt to contact the customers and try to set up a date when they can come and tell the commission their stories, commissioners said.
Kalil’s 495 Car & Truck dealership at 1175 Main St. was formerly known as Fenway Auto Park.
Police Captain Alan Ratte said a police investigator tried to contact Stefan DiGregorio of Wakefield several times to discuss his complaint against Kalil, but that DiGregorio has not returned the officer’s phone calls.
Assistant City Clerk Heather Budrewicz said DiGregorio and one other customer with a pending complaint against Kalil told her via email that they could not attend last night’s meeting due to work and school conflicts. In an email to The Eagle-Tribune last night, DiGregorio said he was disappointed he was unable to attend the meeting.
DiGregorio filed a police report last month and complained to several consumer agencies after he said Kalil threatened to have him fired from his job at a local ambulance company during their dispute over his attempt to return a vehicle he purchased from Kalil under the state’s Lemon Law.
The other customers, Randy and Tammy Duquette, said they purchased a 2005 Dodge Ram truck from Kalil earlier this year and at the time of sale were given an “IOU” for a replacement chrome rim and four new tires. The deal also included a promise that certain repairs would be made before the Duquettes took delivery of the vehicle, they said. They claimed Kalil replaced the original tires with other used tires, failed to replace the rim and did not make other promised repairs. They said Kalil avoided their phone calls and emails as they sought to resolve the matter.
At last night’s meeting, Kalil said he resolved his dispute with the Duquettes by sending them a check for $297.98. He told the commission he has been unable to resolve his dispute with DiGregorio because DiGregorio has refused to return the vehicle to his shop so he can repair it.
“He (DiGregorio) showed up at my place by surprise the day before a blizzard and told me it was popping out of gear,” Kalil said. “I agreed there was a problem with the transmission and that since it was still under the 30-day warranty, I told him I would fix it. But that I couldn’t fix it that day because I was busy preparing for a blizzard.”
Kalil said DiGregorio broke two subsequent appointments with him to have the vehicle fixed.
“I can’t fix it if he won’t drop it off,” Kalil told the commission. “I work hard to satisfy my customers’ needs, but these are 100,000-miles-plus cars that I fix up the best I can. ...I feel I’m being held hostage by customers who threaten to report to me due some problems I’ve had in the past.”
Kalil has a history of problems with customers, the commission and various consumer protection agencies.
In June 2011, the commission warned Kalil they would revoke his license if they received one more complaint against him during the next year. At that meeting, Haverhill police said they have responded to Kalil’s dealership numerous times to investigate disputes between Kalil and his customers.
Police said problems have included failure to return deposits, issues with sale contracts and possible violations of the Lemon Law. In 2009, the car dealership was cited by the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation for violating the Lemon Law.
At that time, Kalil said he recently made many policy and personnel changes at his dealership, including firing the store’s manager and hiring a second mechanic, to eliminate problems.
In his recent letter to the commission, Kalil said the “adjustments to the company” made in 2011 have worked great and that the dealership has sold more than 500 vehicles since the last time he was in front of the commission.
Commission Chairman Joseph Edwards said the commission would take up the consumer complaints again at its May meeting, but that if neither DiGregorio nor the Duquettes show, they will have to drop the matter.
At the end of last night’s meeting, Kalil used his camera time to promote what he said was an effort he is leading to create a charity for donating money to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Boston.
Kalil said he has been going around to talk to other car dealers in the area with the goal of getting them to agree to donate $10 for every vehicle they sell. The commission’s meetings are broadcast on Haverhill’s local cable access channel.
“Everyone in this world takes, and no one gives back,” Kalil said, referring to his effort to give something back.