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Regulators bust electrical 'ghosts'

  • Article by: JANE FRIEDMANN
  • Star Tribune
  • April 23, 2011 - 11:32 PM

Mistakes by electricians may not be the most visible in the construction industry, but the consequences of shoddy electrical work can be shocking, or worse. That's why the state Department of Labor and Industry licenses several categories of electrical professionals, from technicians to master electricians.

Unlike the many consumer complaints against building contractors, the vast majority of complaints about electricians come from those in the know: inspectors and competitors, said Charlie Durenberger, the department's contractor enforcement manager.

One area of concern for the department, according to Durenberger, is the practice of illegally lending licenses, sometimes for a fee, to give an electrician or business the appearance of legitimacy.

More than half of those on my list this week were engaged in this scheme, including a contractor who paid master electricians monthly stipends to make it seem as if he had fulfilled a requirement to be a master or have one on the payroll.

Without a master on staff "there's a greater potential for individuals working for the company to injure themselves or do wiring that could cause a fire or injure someone else," Durenberger said.

The masters in these schemes are known as "ghost masters," he said. "They're not really there and they don't supervise the work."

Here are the eight electrical licensees disciplined and fined in the second half of 2010:

AMP Alarm LLC, Technology Systems Contractor, Orem, Utah: Censured, limited, fined $15,000.

The company engaged in unlicensed, unregistered electrical work. It agreed to stop selling alarms in Minnesota. The state allowed the company to remain licensed solely to service its existing systems.

The Minnesota attorney general filed suit last May over complaints that AMP Alarm engaged in high-pressure, deceptive sales tactics. The company has denied the allegations. A settlement conference is set for August.

The J Edison Group LLC, Hudson, Wis., Technology Systems Contractor: Censured, fined $2,000.

The company performed unlicensed electrical contractor work.

ADDCO LLC, doing business as Imago North America, St. Paul, Technology Systems Contractor: Censured, fined $1,000.

The business was performing technology system contractor work before it became licensed.

Samer A. Alzoubi, doing business as Lumen Electric, Brooklyn Park, Electrical Contractor and Journeyman: Censured, fined $1,000, suspended as a contractor.

He performed unlicensed master electrician work by paying two non-employees for the use of their licenses. Two months after his contractor license was suspended, he voluntarily surrendered it.

David J. Getschel, Hudson, Wis., Master Electrician. Censured, fined $1,000.

He let Alzoubi use his license.

Justin J. Hertel, doing business as L & R Electric, Moorhead, Minn., Master Electrician and Journeyman Electrician: Censured, fined $1,000.

Hertel used the license of Randy K. Leadbetter, a North Dakota electrical contractor, though he wasn't an employee.

Eugene E. Ehrke, Plato, Minn., Master Electrician. Censured, fined $500.

He let Alzoubi use his license.

Randy K. Leadbetter, doing business as Randy's Electric, Carrington, N.D., Electrical Contractor and Master Electrician: Censured, fined $500.

He allowed Hertel to use his contractor license and a vehicle that lacked contractor signage.

If you'll be having electrical work done, verify the business and individual are licensed at www.tinyurl.com/3vxf4ky or call 651-284-5012.

If you are planning on doing your own electrical work, go to www.tinyurl.com/3pwh3dd for information on permits and inspections.

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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