Family of late Verona car dealer carries on his fight
By R.A. Monti
Published: Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Bert Molitierno never quit fighting.
The owner of what was formerly known as Verona Jeep fought Chrysler and the federal government when they took his dealership away from him in 2009.
And, he fought for his family's future when he realized that he might never get that dealership back. He worked tirelessly to turn his former Jeep dealership into a used car lot, Verona Motors, and to open his own Valvoline Express Care — known as Verona Motors Express Care — at the site of the dealership's former used car lot.
But the fighting took its toll on Molitierno, who died from a heart attack in June. He was 57.
“There's zero doubt in my mind that if Chrysler and the government had not done their dealer terminations that my father would still be alive today,” said Michael Molitierno, Bert's son, who, along with his mother, Cindy, and brother, Lou, helps run the family businesses. “He was working around the clock to make this building perfect.”
In 2009, Verona Jeep was one of 789 dealerships across the country eliminated by the government and Chrysler as part of the automaker's bankruptcy bailout plan.
The business started by Cindy Molitierno's father, Lou Varassi, 55 years earlier could no longer sell new Jeeps and Chryslers.
Once he was stripped of his dealership, Bert Molitierno became a crusader for other dealers who were in his situation.
The eldest Molitierno started a petition on the website petition2congress.com and joined a class action suit against the U.S. Treasury to recoup some of the money the family lost as a result of the dealership closure.
The suit claims the government violated the Fifth Amendment rights of Chrysler dealers when it helped implement the automaker's bankruptcy plan.
The lawsuit asks for more than $200 million in damages for the now-defunct dealers.
According to Leonard Bellavia, lead attorney on the lawsuit, the government is appealing a February ruling by a federal judge that said the case should go to court.
“Both sides have filed briefs; the next step is for oral argument,” Bellavia, a partner at the New York law firm Bellavia, Blatt, Andron, & Crossett said. “I think we'll be OK. The judge issued a good reason why it should go forward. The particular facts here are unique. That's why the decision is being appealed.”
Bellavia said the Fifth Amendment specifies that any citizen who has their property taken by the government is to be compensated.
“We feel like on the law, itself, the suit is very strong,” he said. “The Obama administration was in on everything. That constitutes government activity.”
Bellavia said that if the government loses its appeal, it would be about two years before the case goes to trial.
Until then, the Molitiernos must struggle on.
“We really had to find a way to make ends meet given the large amounts of debt they left us with,” Michael Molitierno said. “We had parts and inventory and computer programs we could never use. The amount of debt they passed off on the small dealers and the people who actually go to work was absolutely ridiculous.”
Now, the family works tirelessly to fill the void left by Bert.
“My mom is probably the hardest-working human being I've ever seen,” Molitierno said of Cindy. “She comes in every day around 7:30 a.m. and doesn't leave until 7:30 or 8 every night.
“We're open six days a week, and she comes in Sunday to catch up with paperwork and everything else.”
Molitierno said the new Express Care will show the values and work ethic his father left behind.
“My goal is to be able to provide the best service possible to the people in the community and make it the best experience,” he said.
Molitierno said the family will donate $1 from every oil change to the Animal Rescue League and has sent out special discounts to firefighters, police officers, teachers and other area public servants.
Molitierno knows filling his dad's shoes won't be easy, but he's more than willing to try.
“There is a pressure, but the pressure is more that he gave his life for us to be able to live ours and enjoy ours,” he said. “I think it would be disrespectful for everything he stood for to not make the business succeed.
“It's not pressure; it's an obligation.”
R.A. Monti is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Knoch High School, Penn United may join forces for tech class
- Allegheny Township man accused of gashing girlfriend’s face with scissors
- Fawn man convicted of firearm violation, which carries minimum 15-year sentence
- Valley High Touchdown Club officers clash with parents over finances
- Butler County hunter found dead in Cowanshannock
- Freeport Area moves to seek permits for roadwork at site of school project
- Free Thanksgiving dinners bring people together
- ‘Welcome Christmas’ at Casino Theatre embraces the reason for the season
- Suspect eludes Freeport police by jumping into Buffalo Creek
- Casey wants answers on nuclear cleanup shutdown
- Shoe Sensation plans grand opening in Lower Burrell