Judge enforces sale of North Side auto body shop to PennDOT

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William Lieberth Sr., owner of Allegheny Auto Body on the North Side, said Monday he plans to appeal a judge's decision that ordered him to accept a settlement, pay his former attorney and vacate his Route 28 auto repair business in three weeks.

"It was just basically a joke, a rubber stamp," said Mr. Lieberth in a telephone interview a few hours after the order was issued by Allegheny County Judge Michael E. McCarthy.

His father purchased the East Ohio Street property in 1976 and Mr. Lieberth, 56, of West Deer, planned to retire from the shop and pass it on to his own son. That plan was upended when the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which is working on a project to expand Route 28, acquired his property through eminent domain in November.

Saying he had nowhere to move his business, Mr. Lieberth ignored PennDOT when the agency told him, in July, that he had to vacate his property by Aug. 6.

He said Monday he planned to continue fighting for his building, and that he would "consider it an honor" to die for it.

"I'm fully prepared, if I have to," he said.

Mr. Lieberth said he wanted PennDOT to find him a place nearby where he could move his business so he wouldn't lose his customer base or encounter new competition.

"If I'm screwed over, if they don't have a place for me to go to, I'll get as much money as I can from them, give it all to my wife and my two sons, sign everything out of my name, buy four burial plots, pick out a casket, a pre-paid funeral, and do what I think is fair," he said. "Die for the building."

He did not elaborate on what that meant, except to say: "I'm pure German descent. We know how to fight."

Jim Struzzi, a spokesman for PennDOT, said the agency had no comment on Mr. Lieberth's remarks or on the outcome of the court hearing.

The enforcement order provides PennDOT with the last property needed for its Route 28 expansion project. PennDOT has said that the construction phase requiring the property occupied by Mr. Lieberth will begin in late 2013 and be completed in 2014.

Judge McCarthy's order enforced a settlement that representatives for PennDOT and Harvey Robins, a former attorney for Mr. Lieberth, said they agreed to in early August. That settlement included a $245,000 payment plus $3,500 in interest, about half of which Mr. Lieberth already has received, as well as an extension of Mr. Lieberth's move-out date from early August to Oct. 1.

Mr. Lieberth, who fired Mr. Robins Aug. 22, continued to insist Monday that he did not agree to the settlement, but Judge McCarthy enforced it in his decision.

"There can be little real controversy in this matter that an enforceable agreement was reached and must be honored," Judge McCarthy wrote.

He also ordered that PennDOT pay directly to Mr. Robins a fee of $31,565, with the remainder of the settlement sent to Mr. Lieberth.

The court order comes at the end of a battle that has been waged between Mr. Lieberth and PennDOT. The agency first contacted Mr. Lieberth about acquiring his property in 2007, yet failed to reach agreement for years. In November 2011, PennDOT took ownership of the property by eminent domain.

Judge McCarthy said in his order that the Allegheny County sheriff's department will evict Mr. Lieberth if he does not comply with the order to vacate by Oct. 1.

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Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707. First Published September 10, 2012 5:30 PM


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