THE BETTER FLIP PROJECT – WILLOWICK CONFIRMS NOT ALL CONTRACTORS REGISTERED
As we told you in our article, Port Authority…it appears budgeting not their strong suit, the Port Authority FINALLY produced our request for a detailed accounting of the Better Flip Project on March 4th, 40 days after that records request was made at the January 2019 Port Authority Board Meeting held on January 23. Here is what Rantala produced: Rantala’s Project Costs to $210,000. Here is our consolidated summary sorted by contractor: Better Flip Contractor Costs $210K
Our initial research, from what was available on the Willowick website, had us a bit concerned as none of the contractors listed in Rantala’s financial accounting were found in the list of registered contractors on the website. On March 5th we sent the following email to Mr. Sean Brennan, Chief Housing and Zoning Inspector, for the City of Willowick:
Good Morning Mr. Brennan,
Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Sunshine Laws, please provide to Lobbyists for Citizens copies of any and all documents, to include but not limited to, completed Contractor Registration forms, Completed Bond forms and any and all backup documentation relative to the registration process for the following contractors currently working on the Lake County Ohio Port & Economic Development Authority Better Flip Project located at 557 E. 305th Street:
- Dowhan Concrete & Sewer Contracting
- Bristol Services
- Skorich Plumbing and Sewer
- APT Electric
- Two Seasons Heating & Cooling
We have downloaded your Contractors listed dated February 7th and March 4th but do not see the above-named contractors listed.
The project has been ongoing for the better part of a year. Maybe we are missing something or perhaps the registrations are in process?
Lobbyists for Citizens
On March 6th (only 1 day later), Mr. Brennan responded with the following email:
For 2018 and 2019 bristol services are registered.
For 2018 T. dowhan concrete and sewer contracting was registered.
All other contractors were not registered in the city for 2018. Contractors typically do not register until they get a job in our city. You can check with the Lake County Building Dept. for the other contractors registrations. Lake county building dept. enforces the Ohio building codes, mechanical and electrical codes for the City of Willowick. Lake County health dept. enforces the Ohio plumbing codes.
Please contact me if you have any more questions.
Chief Housing and Zoning Inspector
31230 Vine St
Willowick Oh 44095
On March 6th, we emailed Mr. Brennan again and asked that he produce a list of all registered contractors for the year 2018. We got a response the same day.
Initially, we did not realize that Mr. Brennan had responded to our records requests. I decided to pay him a visit to see if I could get copies in person. Mr. Brennan was very friendly, extremely accommodating, and he printed the emails and records he produced via email and gave them to me on the spot. We checked our Spam folder, and sure enough, the emails from Mr. Brennan were there. A big THANK YOU to Mr. Brennan for his openness and transparency!
We had a pleasant conversation about the cost of the project and our concern that some of the contractors that had performed the work and had already been paid for their work were not registered with the City of Willowick. I asked questions about the basement walls that had to be replaced. He stated that since they were adding on an extra room at the back of the house, it was known that the east basement wall adjacent to the addition would have to be replaced. What was not known was that the north and south wall also had to be replaced.
How can we be sure that the contractors who did not register with the City of Willowick, as required, are licensed, bonded, and insured? Remember, the Port Authority Director, Mark Rantala, is serving as the “general contractor” on this Port Authority Project. It would seem to us that it is his responsibility to ensure that all the contractors performing work on the Better Flip Project, a government project, are registered with the City of Willowick, the city in which the flip house is located.
And where is that original budget Chairman Lindrose talked about in December 2017? We told you in our article, Flipping and Flopping with Taxpayers Money, that at its December 2017 board meeting, Chairman Art Lindrose (President and Principal at Bolton Pratt, a Cleveland General Contractor) reported that he and Board Member, Bill Martin (President of Barrington Homes in Concord, OH), would collaborate on the project to put together a budget which would spell out what it would take to bring the flip house to the point of resale to a millennial…should the Board choose to take the project on.
Fear not citizens of Lake County, we’ve requested that budget. We’re betting that budget doesn’t exist either. You know…like the detailed financial accounting that didn’t exist prior to March 4th?
Mr. Rantala admitted that the detailed financial accounting he finally produced, some 40 days after our records request, had to be created. He also stated that he knew, presumably because of their legal counsel’s advice, he didn’t have to create something that didn’t exist just to produce it for a records request. In his arrogance, what Rantala is saying here is that he “did us a favor” by producing a schedule of what had been paid to the contractors. In his ignorance, he is admitting that this information did not exist prior to March 4th, about a year and a half into the project. Has that sunk in yet to the Lake County citizens, Board members and Commissioners?
If we were on the Board, we would have demanded a running total of what had been spent to date on the project by each contractor, compared to the budget, before we authorized any additional expenditures…that is only common sense, and a basic business practice. Sadly, we have come to the conclusion that there never was an original budget. Now we are at nearly $300K for this thing? Get your popcorn ready…it’s going to be fun watching them back into this budget.
We are not sure which “feasance” applies, but man oh man, there is enough to go around…
“Malfeasance is an affirmative act that is illegal or wrongful. In tort law, it is distinct from Misfeance, which is an act that is not illegal , but is improperly performed. It is also distinct from Nonfeasance, which is failure to act that results in injury. At $300K, we are “up to our eyeballs” in “feasance.”
Budgets? We don’t need no stinkin’ budgets!! Competitive bidding? Pffffftttt!!! Begone peasants….
In our opinion, this Board is guilty of some type of “feasance” and should be dealt with immediately over this unmitigated disaster. Our question to the Port Authority Board and the Lake County Board of Commissioners is this: “Are you proud to have your names and reputations tied to the Better Flip Project? Quite frankly, we are embarrassed for all of you, and the taxpayers are entitled to a better performance! It’s time for the Lake County Board of Commissioners to exercise their oversight of the Port Authority before they get one more penny of tax payer dollars!
We will be updating our state submissions and adding one more agency at the suggestion of the Ethics Commission. Stay tuned!