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Continued: Whistleblower: Contractors get disciplined by state

  • Article by: JANE FRIEDMANN
  • Last update: January 14, 2013 - 9:24 AM

One building contractor twice persuaded homeowners to give him duplicate checks and then cashed both.

A man convicted of theft by swindle was found running a construction business registered to his wife.

Other contractors failed to get permits, complete work or pay civil judgments obtained by subcontractors, suppliers and homeowners.

In all, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry took disciplinary action against 83 contractors in the second half of 2012. The state revoked the licenses of 16.

I requested department orders and analyzed penalty data to come up with the nine businesses that lost their licenses and were assessed the highest fines, as well as an unlicensed contractor who was assessed the highest fine of all 83.

Joe Buelke Custom Carpentry LLC, Prior Lake, $17,677 fine

Buelke failed to pay a subcontractor for roofing work and falsely told the sub that the homeowner hadn't paid him enough. He removed a broken window, but for more than two months failed to provide a temporary covering or a replacement. He began work on the project before a permit was issued and never requested a final inspection.

Brainerd Construction Inc. and David N. Luke, Merrifield, $11,000 fine

Luke and his company failed to pay two debts to suppliers or pay a $17,733 judgment awarded to the state after Luke failed to provide workers' compensation insurance to employees.

Better Home Innovations LLC and Ron Chang, North St. Paul, $5,500 fine

A homeowner paid Chang a $6,337 down payment for roof, fascia and other work. Chang failed to complete the project and told the customer that he wanted to amend the contract to remove his obligation to pay his subcontractors.

The customer refused. Chang then said that if the homeowner didn't pay the balance of $3,532, he would abandon the project. The homeowner paid but Chang still abandoned the project.

Gerard L. Roy, doing business as Omni Construction Co., Prior Lake, $5,000 fine

Roy failed to fully disclose his "expansive criminal history" on a license application. He has 14 criminal convictions for theft, drug possession, forgery, transaction-card fraud, assault, fleeing police, drug possession and other crimes. His contractor license was issued in May and revoked in October.

Don-Rite Construction LLC and Clayton A. Cooper, Brooklyn Center, $750 fine (additional $10,000 was stayed)

In September the department issued orders that revoked Don-Rite's license and fined it $13,000 for allegedly failing to pay civil judgments totaling $10,338, for doing unlicensed work and failing to repair faulty work. Cooper appealed the orders and later consented to revocation and a lower fine. The earlier order was vacated.

SMK Property Enterprises LLC, Stephen A. Kamp, Melanie Kamp, Eden Prairie ($20,000 stayed fine)

In 2002, the state revoked Stephen Kamp's certificate that allowed him to perform a limited amount of contracting work each year. A year later he pleaded guilty to felony theft by swindle.

In 2011, Kamp's wife, Melanie Kamp, was granted a license for SMK based on a statement that she was the sole principal.

Customers later alleged that the company and Stephen Kamp did work on seven properties before SMK was licensed and customers paid Stephen Kamp personally for work totaling more than $300,000.

The department revoked SMK's license in April and fined it and Stephen Kamp $20,000, but after they appealed, the Kamps agreed to revocation and a stay of the fine. The April order was vacated.

Affordable Kitchen and Bath Remodeling Inc., Elk River ($10,000 stayed fine)

The company agreed to the revocation of its license after the department alleged it "provided a service beyond the scope of its license, ... perform[ed unpermitted] construction [work], and refus[ed] to comply with a ... notice of violation issued by a building official."

Professional American Restoration Corp., St. Michael ($10,000 stayed fine)

The business allegedly failed to pay its subcontractors or satisfy related civil judgments. It failed to respond to a department investigation in a timely manner, the department said.  The business and its owner, Derrick Langva, agreed to revocation.

Restoration Resources Inc. and Shelby Westergreen, Lake Elmo ($10,000 stayed fine)

In June, the department revoked the company's license and fined it $70,000 for allegedly failing to pay subcontractors and suppliers. Two homeowners complained about the work quality and in August, after appealing the order, Westergreen agreed to revocation and a stayed fine. The June order was vacated.

The following unlicensed contractor garnered the highest fine in the second half of 2012. A Lakeville business with a similar name to two used by Ekdahl is not involved, the department said.

Michael A. Ekdahl, doing business as Outdoor Services Landscaping, Father and Son's Lawn Care, Father and Sons Lawn Care II and Jeff's Outdoor Services, St. Paul, $32,550 fine, cease and desist.

The department issued two cease and desist orders against Ekdahl in 2006.

In 2011, a St. Paul homeowner gave Ekdahl a down payment that included a $1,500 check. Ekdahl claimed he lost the check and when the homeowner wrote a new one, Ekdahl cashed them both. He failed to finish the work.

Last year, another St. Paul homeowner wrote Ekdahl a check for $2,700 and complied when he asked for a replacement check made out to him personally, rather than his business. Ekdahl promised to return the original check, but instead cashed both.

Hard Data digs into public records and puts a spotlight on rule breakers in Minnesota. Contact me at jfriedmann@startribune.com.

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