Consumer Agency Cites Builder, Plumber, Electrician On Mayor's Home Project
By JEFFREY B. COHEN And MATTHEW KAUFFMAN, Courant Staff Writers
October 10, 2007
A builder, a plumber and an unlicensed electrician who did illegal home improvement work for Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez have been fined thousands of dollars by the state for their roles in the renovation.
Carlos Costa - a Perez family friend whose construction company has received millions of dollars in city money - was fined $1,500 by the state Department of Consumer Protection for supervising the mayor's renovation work without a home improvement registration and for using the unlicensed electrician. The department also levied $1,000 fines on the electrician and on the plumber, both of whom worked without permits.
Meanwhile, the city said Tuesday that Perez has yet to schedule his inspections. And Costa has hired a licensed electrician to go to Perez's house and make sure the work was done properly.
"I will go in, I will take apart the work that's been done, make sure it was done right, and if there's any correction to be made, I will make the correction," said Rhoan Stewart of Dynamic Electrical Contractor Inc. Tuesday. "I'm going to take it apart as if I started off fresh."
The consumer protection department's investigation followed Perez's admission on Aug. 16 that Costa had overseen $20,000 in kitchen and bath renovations at the mayor's Bloomfield Avenue home. The mayor's admission came two days after state criminal investigators searched his home in connection with the renovation work.
In a statement that day, Perez said it was a mistake to hire Costa and fail to get the proper city permits. Although he did not pay for the work until nearly two years after it began, Perez has said it was never his intention to have the work done for free.
On Tuesday, in response to a number of questions about the inspections and the investigation, Perez spokeswoman Sarah Barr sent an e-mail saying only that "the inspections will be completed in accordance with the city ordinance and the policy of licenses and inspections."
Costa began the renovation in early 2005 and has said it was substantially completed in 2006. On Aug. 23 of this year, Perez applied for the appropriate city permits, which were issued six days later.
After The Courant raised questions about the work, state consumer protection officials opened an investigation first to determine whether Costa had a valid registration as a home improvement contractor. He did not. The department then expanded its probe to determine whether each person who worked at Perez's home was properly licensed.
In a signed statement, Costa told the state that an unlicensed electrician did "some minor electrical work," including the installation of a "vanity light fixture, light switch and whirlpool tub electrical connection."
"Due to the fact that I considered this minor electrical work, something a layman can perform, I did not use nor did I believe I needed to use a licensed electrician," Costa said in his statement.
Costa also told the state that although he did no plumbing work himself at Perez's home, he had done some plumbing work on other jobs. He is not a licensed plumber. For that, he was fined an additional $1,000.
The unlicensed electrician Costa said did the work at Perez's home was Ramiro Morales. Morales, who worked "general maintenance" for Costa's company, USA Contractors, told the state that he installed the vanity light fixture, light switch and whirlpool tub electrical connection.
He also told the state that although he had worked as a licensed electrician for 20 years in his native Colombia, he had never done electrical work in Connecticut before the mayor's job. He was fined $1,000.
The plumber on the job was Arthur E. Sullivan Sr. of Donald Sullivan & Sons of Plantsville. The state fined Sullivan $1,000 for working on the mayor's home without applying to the city for a plumbing permit.
Sullivan also was fined $2,500 for doing unlicensed heating, cooling and sheet-metal work elsewhere - a violation the department discovered during its investigation at Perez's home. Sullivan obtained permits for the work with the help of a licensed contractor, David A. Bauchiero Jr., who was fined $2,000.
None of the contractors returned calls for comment Tuesday, but each signed agreements promising to comply with the law that were accepted Tuesday by Jerry Farrell Jr., the state commissioner of consumer protection.
"It often turns into a mess without using licensed and registered people," Farrell said. "That's indicated by the nest that we discovered here. But that's not specific to Mayor Perez."
Richard E. Maloney, the department's director of trade practices, said Tuesday that his office's investigators did not interview Perez because the department regulates contractors, not consumers. Maloney also said that all the parties they did investigate were cooperative.
"I was confident that what they were telling us was in fact an accurate representation," Maloney said. "They simply wanted to comply and they came clean with all of the information."
Stewart, the licensed electrician recently hired by Costa, said Tuesday that since he has yet to receive the electrical permits in the mail, he doesn't know when the job will begin. He also said he doesn't know how much Costa will pay him, because he doesn't yet know the scope of the work.
"If there's no issue, it might take me half an hour," Stewart said. "If there's a problem, it might take me all day."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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