Complaints about contractors doing poor work or no work, over charging or just taking the money and running have come from almost every community in South Mississippi since Katrina.
Tuesday, the State Board of Contractors brought its license hearing process to the Mississippi Gulf Coast for the very first time. The board heard ten cases, including one Action Reporter A.J. Giardina brought to our attention earlier this year.
All of the homeowners at Tuesday's meeting had complaints about the people they hired to repair or rebuild hurricane damaged homes. They lined up to meet with the State Board of Contractors, hoping to prevent rebuilding troubles for others.
"When we have people out there who are not efficient and doing their job, then we have to protect them," said George Edwards with the State Board of Contractors.
One of the cases the board reviewed Tuesday was the subject of a WLOX Action Report back in June. The report outlined Don Baker's complaints about contractor Marvin White of Gulf Coast Polysteel.
At the time, White wouldn't talk to WLOX about the homeowner's complaints. So A.J. Giardina tried to catch him after Tuesday's meeting.
"Can you speak right now?" A.J. asked.
"Sure, I can speak, but I'm not too sure that I want to. Your reports are all biased," White replied.
"Why do we have all these people complaining against you?" A.J. asked.
"Because we're in limits of the contract. He panicked and thought maybe I was, because of a lot of reports going around. Join the bandwagon," White said.
Inside the hearing room, the homeowner told the State Board he signed a $177,000 contract for White to build a new home in Woolmarket. Baker paid in full, up front.
After seven months of work, the job wasn't nearly finished. That's when Baker says White told him he'd have to come up with more money.
"Now mind you, I'm already in there for $177,000. I'm already into an SBA loan. So he called me up up there and says, 'It's going to cost $151,000 to complete this house,'" Baker told the board. "It's gross negligence. You can not be in business that long and under estimate a job that much."
Marvin White told the State Board that Baker started making changes to the house plans, which drove up the price.
"One was elevating the house four feet," White told the board. "The other was, my memory may not serve me well, was closing in the back porch, which added 730 something square feet."
Even though he wanted more money, White admitted to the board that he didn't draw up a new contract.
One board member asked, "Seven months later, you continued to bill him at $177,000. Am I saying this correct?"
"You're correct," White replied.
After hearing out White and the homeowner, the board went behind closed doors. Fifteen minutes later, they voted to revoke White's license to do business as Gulf Coast Polysteel.
"I hate to see a man lose his livelihood, but if this is what it takes to stop this nonsense, that's what it takes," Baker said. "I think a fair decision was made and, like I say, there will be others coming after him."
The board's recommendation to revoke White's contractor's license won't become official until after the board's October meeting.
The Mississippi State Board of Contractors also made the following recommendations Tuesday:
- Unlicensed contractors Anthony Morgan and Paul Warren Church of Christ Construction were fined $20,000.
- Mineo Homes and Restoration was fined $5,000.
- Another unlicensed contractor, Jamie Lawson - owner of J & P Drywall, was fined $15,000.
- Southern Coast Construction received a public reprimand.