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<v Host>Let's talk now about the problem of remodeling our homes and the dangers that <v Host>may lurk therein, you've been looking into that. <v Tom Thompson>There are certainly a lot of dangers in having your home remodeled. <v Tom Thompson>As the price of new homes has been going up and up, as we all well know, <v Tom Thompson>more and more people are turning to remodeling, adding a room, doing <v Tom Thompson>some work around the house in lieu of going out and buying a new home. <v Tom Thompson>We wanted to look at this from the standpoint of the consumer. <v Tom Thompson>How well is the consumer being treated? <v Tom Thompson>We did a lot of searching of public documents to come up with complaints. <v Tom Thompson>Are there any complaints in this area? <v Tom Thompson>How well are the contractors controlled when they're dealing with <v Tom Thompson>the consumer? We found that 1, there are allegations that there is very little <v Tom Thompson>control, very little enforcement of consumer protection against the contractors. <v Tom Thompson>We also ran across a company called the Standard American Builders. <v Tom Thompson>Standard American Builders is one of the heaviest advertisers of the contractors <v Tom Thompson>on TV. They advertise in TV Guide and they're quite well known by many
<v Tom Thompson>people. When we began looking at Standard American, we ran across <v Tom Thompson>a number of complaints throughout the public records that we looked at. <v Tom Thompson>We called people randomly after checking those records. <v Tom Thompson>And we found that, in fact, nearly every 1 had a complaint lodged <v Tom Thompson>against them. We found several homeowners who had complained in Compton in the South <v Tom Thompson>Los Angeles area about the treatment that they had received from standard American <v Tom Thompson>builders. Ms. Jackson, it's been six months since Standard American decided <v Tom Thompson>to do some work in here for you in your kitchen. <v Tom Thompson>Can you tell us what's been done and what needs to be done yet? <v Evelyn Jackson>The ceiling is supposed to be an illuminated ceiling with lightings. <v Evelyn Jackson>1 of these fixtures was here already. <v Evelyn Jackson>And when they took the walls out and they put the sand they put in, <v Evelyn Jackson>they cut in another fixture and <v Evelyn Jackson>I don't know what was the purpose of, you know, cutting the other 1 in, but they said
<v Evelyn Jackson>that they would do the whole ceiling and the lights, it would be, <v Evelyn Jackson>you know, illuminated. <v Tom Thompson>And right now, all you're doing is looking at some empty fixtures up there. <v Evelyn Jackson>Oh, it's been like this for the past 6 months. <v Evelyn Jackson>We've been without cabinets and countertop from June up until December. <v Evelyn Jackson>When they came in the week before Christmas, they came in and <v Evelyn Jackson>put in the countertops. <v Evelyn Jackson>And while we got the cabinets about 2 months before we <v Evelyn Jackson>got the doors and the drawers, they were put in the week before Christmas. <v Evelyn Jackson>And we still don't have a sink. <v Tom Thompson>There's just a big empty hole over there. How do you manage in the kitchen with none <v Tom Thompson>of this being done? <v Evelyn Jackson>Well, without the sink, we have to wash our dishes and our food <v Evelyn Jackson>or vegetables or whatever. <v Evelyn Jackson>We have to use the service porch, where we wash our clothes, because that's the <v Evelyn Jackson>only thing that we have available as of now. <v Tom Thompson>Ms. Jackson in the bathroom here, this is another room you were going to have remodeled
<v Tom Thompson>and it's a mess. <v Tom Thompson>What needs to be done and what's been done so far? <v Evelyn Jackson>Well, so far they have replaced our comode. <v Evelyn Jackson>And as you could see there, they put a new comode in and the seat has been <v Evelyn Jackson>broken about 2 weeks after they put it in, it came apart. <v Evelyn Jackson>They put the sink in and the cabinet. <v Evelyn Jackson>But we still have no water there at the sink. <v Evelyn Jackson>And this was just put in the week before Christmas. <v Tom Thompson>So it took them almost 6 months just to put that cabinet in. <v Evelyn Jackson>Yes, it did. <v Tom Thompson>Showers all unhooked, I can see. <v Evelyn Jackson>Yes. The shower has been that way for the past 6 months. <v Tom Thompson>How do you do things like bathing and brushing your teeth? <v Evelyn Jackson>Over the bathtub. <v Tom Thompson>Ms. Jackson, this whole project has cost you 8550 dollars. <v Tom Thompson>You're still paying for it? Why? <v Evelyn Jackson>They said that if we don't make the payment, then they would have to-
<v Evelyn Jackson>not- the bank, you know, that's handling the finance, said that they would have to <v Evelyn Jackson>foreclose on the property if we don't make the payments. <v Tom Thompson>So you're really stuck with having to pay for some work that is not done <v Tom Thompson>and hasn't been done for 6 months. <v Evelyn Jackson>Yes. And the payments had started before the work <v Evelyn Jackson>even started because the contract was drawn up <v Evelyn Jackson>in April and the first payment was due in May. <v Evelyn Jackson>And they didn't start the work until June. <v Tom Thompson>So you've been paying for 8 months then on something. <v Tom Thompson>What have you done to try to get standard American to come out and do the work? <v Evelyn Jackson>Well, we've called Standard American Builders, and I've talked to <v Evelyn Jackson>just about everybody there, you know, at the at the office. <v Evelyn Jackson>We've wrote the contractor's license bureau. <v Evelyn Jackson>We've wrote to talk to the <v Evelyn Jackson>Consumer Affairs-.
<v Tom Thompson>Consumer Affairs Board. <v Evelyn Jackson>Yes. <v Tom Thompson>What'd all those people tell you? <v Evelyn Jackson>Well they said that it's nothing they can do. <v Evelyn Jackson>We even called the health department. <v Evelyn Jackson>They came out and they looked and they said it wasn't anything that they could do. <v Evelyn Jackson>We even tried talking to our councilman out in this area and they said that <v Evelyn Jackson>they would look into it and they would get in touch with us later. <v Evelyn Jackson>And we didn't hear any more from them. <v Evelyn Jackson>So there was, I don't know, is nothing else we can really do except just wait <v Evelyn Jackson>now and see what happens. <v Tom Thompson>Ms. Jackson, how did you come to choose Standard American Builders? <v Tom Thompson>And didn't you check them out before you contracted with them? <v Evelyn Jackson>Well, by watching television and reading the TV <v Evelyn Jackson>guide, you know, and we say, well, this company, you <v Evelyn Jackson>know, is doing all this advertising in the papers, magazine and <v Evelyn Jackson>television, well we figure, well, it wouldn't take no time to get our job <v Evelyn Jackson>done because it's a big company and it's real famous and they would just go on and do the
<v Evelyn Jackson>work and get it over with. <v Evelyn Jackson>But then it didn't work that way. <v Tom Thompson>It didn't work that way in Beverly Hills either. <v Tom Thompson>That's what the Zussman family contends. <v Tom Thompson>They contracted with standard Americans to build a 2 story addition to their home in <v Tom Thompson>October of 1976. <v Tom Thompson>They contend the work was unsatisfactory, incomplete, and that they had to hire another <v Tom Thompson>contractor to finish the job. <v Tom Thompson>Rhoda Zuzsman told us, we think of ourselves as sophisticated consumers. <v Tom Thompson>We got caught. <v Tom Thompson>After repeated phone calls to Standard American Builders in an attempt to interview its <v Tom Thompson>president, Jerry Cooper, on camera. <v Tom Thompson>We visited the office with our video crew. <v Tom Thompson>Cooper had indicated in a preliminary conversation that the complaints against Standard <v Tom Thompson>American were minor and had resulted from shortages of material, misunderstandings. <v Tom Thompson>He also told us that he did 60 jobs a month and was bound to have complaints because his <v Tom Thompson>volume, he refused to be interviewed on cameras.
<v Tom Thompson>After more than a year of complaints against Standard American Builders by a number of <v Tom Thompson>irate consumers other than the Jacksons and the Zussman's contractors, <v Tom Thompson>State Contractors Licensing Board finally made a move. <v Tom Thompson>On December 16th, they filed a formal accusation against Standard American Builders and <v Tom Thompson>its president Jerry Cooper. <v Tom Thompson>Yesterday, the state attorney general, on behalf of the Contractors Licensing Board, <v Tom Thompson>went to court in an attempt to get a rec- an injunction against <v Tom Thompson>the unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business practices <v Tom Thompson>that Standard American Builders had been allegedly engaging in. <v Tom Thompson>According to the complaint, they've been coercing customers. <v Tom Thompson>They had failed to complete work. <v Tom Thompson>They had abandoned projects among the numerous complaints. <v Tom Thompson>They were seeking to restrain Standard American from violating the contractor's <v Tom Thompson>licensing board less than 4 hours ago. <v Tom Thompson>The attorney general obtained a temporary restraining order against Standard
<v Tom Thompson>American. During the course of our investigation, we were wondering why <v Tom Thompson>the contractor's licensing board had taken so much time. <v Tom Thompson>We had uncovered more than 30 complaints against Standard American Builders. <v Tom Thompson>Researcher Kathy McManis visited the contractor's licensing board at the state building <v Tom Thompson>in downtown Los Angeles to find out what kind of information you could get <v Tom Thompson>about complaints against builders. <v Mel Cooper>Good morning. <v Kathy McManis>Hi. I am interested in information about Standard American Builders. <v Mel Cooper>Standard American Builders? If you wait a moment, I'll check our directory. <v Mel Cooper>Standard American Builders is a VBA for omnibus industry corporate <v Mel Cooper>license number 259029 <v Mel Cooper>was renewed July 1 '77. <v Mel Cooper>The president and responsible managing officer of that entity is Jerry <v Mel Cooper>Cooper. <v Tom Thompson>That was the extent of the information that we could get from the contractor's licensing <v Tom Thompson>board. We could find out what the license number was.
<v Tom Thompson>And who were the principals in the business. <v Tom Thompson>There was no other information that we could get. <v Tom Thompson>The number of complaints or what was happening, the consumer was out the cold. <v Host 2>I mean, they wouldn't even tell you whether or not they had rated this contractor as <v Host 2>being in good standing with their board? <v Tom Thompson>There is no rating. What they say is that if they talk about <v Tom Thompson>the complaints against a contractor, they are indicting that contractor because the <v Tom Thompson>complaints may or may not be true. <v Tom Thompson>In this instance, there had been a total of 90 complaints <v Tom Thompson>against the contractor. 4 or 5 is normally considered cause <v Tom Thompson>for alarm. <v Host>They won't volunteer that information to anyone who calls? <v Tom Thompson>No. And Lisa Keehen, who was a board member, she's one of the new public members <v Tom Thompson>of the Contractor's Licensing Board who was appointed amidst much controversy, <v Tom Thompson>is worried about the way that agency is <v Tom Thompson>being run. She's highly critical of the contractors licensing board management. <v Tom Thompson>She wants some changes made in the way they operate.
<v Lisa Keehen>As a member of the board, I'm going to have to say we have to take fault for that. <v Lisa Keehen>I'd say that is typical. I'd say 90 is a little bit extreme, I've heard of <v Lisa Keehen>what you're talking about. But I've seen cases where there's been 10, 15 <v Lisa Keehen>complaints against a contractor out there <v Lisa Keehen>who are still out there building, who have had little or nothing done against them. <v Lisa Keehen>And it's because our agency has not been enforcement minded. <v Lisa Keehen>It's been a mollycoddling back between the contractor and the agency. <v Lisa Keehen>We have not looked aggressively at giving the license. <v Lisa Keehen>Everyone, not everyone, but it's well known that exam has been a joke. <v Lisa Keehen>We've been getting practically the same exam for the last 7 years. <v Lisa Keehen>A third grader knows how to get the exam from the previous year. <v Lisa Keehen>We have a 90 percent pass rate, which in my estimation means that if you show up <v Lisa Keehen>and you're awake, you probably will pass. <v Tom Thompson>Does the agency itself then need a complete restructuring?
<v Lisa Keehen>In my personal opinion, I can only speak for myself. <v Lisa Keehen>Not on behalf of the board, which takes a majority of votes. <v Lisa Keehen>I'd say, yes, I'd say that our present <v Lisa Keehen>chain of command is ineffective. <v Lisa Keehen>I'd say that our management systems are totally unresponsive. <v Lisa Keehen>For instance, we've instigated a new computer system over the last 18 months. <v Lisa Keehen>The information it's to provide for us is for how many contractors are <v Lisa Keehen>we litigating with, what are the type of complaints, we're trying to cross fertilize <v Lisa Keehen>the information, has a 20 percent error rate, 20 <v Lisa Keehen>percent error rate renders the whole system totally inoperable. <v Tom Thompson>Lisa Keehen indicated to me that as a consumer, she wouldn't trust the agency to <v Tom Thompson>give her any useful information in finding a contractor. <v Tom Thompson>Other board members agree they'll have a showdown this coming Friday about board policy <v Tom Thompson>and in fact, whether the registrar or the contractor's licensing board remains.
<v Tom Thompson>David Ackerman is a staff deputy of the contracting licensing board. <v Tom Thompson>I asked Ackerman about the charges that the board is not enforcement minded <v Tom Thompson>and has ineffective and unresponsive management. <v David Ackerman>In response to your question regarding the enforcement <v David Ackerman>of the contractor state license laws incorporated in the business <v David Ackerman>and professions code, and that this agency may not be responsive <v David Ackerman>to its duties to enforce these laws, I would <v David Ackerman>categorically refute any such statement because this agency's <v David Ackerman>record has been proven over the years to be 1 of the best enforcement <v David Ackerman>agencies under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs. <v Tom Thompson>The Department of Consumer Affairs complains about your agency. <v Tom Thompson>Kathleen Bordeaux from the County Department of Consumer Affairs says the contractor <v Tom Thompson>state license board has clearly shown itself to be the least responsive in working with <v Tom Thompson>us to solve consumer problems.
<v Tom Thompson>Those are in recent hearings before the state. <v Tom Thompson>How do you respond to that? <v David Ackerman>I appeared at those hearings when Ms. Bordeaux Made these charges. <v David Ackerman>And the only charges that Ms. Bordeaux Did make was that the Department <v David Ackerman>of Consumer Affairs of Los Angeles County did not timely get <v David Ackerman>the disposition of cases referred to us. <v David Ackerman>There was not a single complaint given to us in which we were accused of <v David Ackerman>not handling the complaint in the interest of the consumer. <v David Ackerman>And that is our main concern. <v Tom Thompson>Board members said that as a consumer, she wouldn't trust your agency. <v Tom Thompson>Her agency. To give her useful answers in dealing with a contractor. <v David Ackerman>In response to that particular board member making that type of accusation. <v David Ackerman>It's unfounded. It's based on an assassination of character <v David Ackerman>and she could not prove her statements or any board member making <v David Ackerman>such a statement with some definitive accusation because we are responsive
<v David Ackerman>to any member of the public. No complaint is ever turned away. <v David Ackerman>We absorb 32,000 complaints in a given year with <v David Ackerman>112 field personnel. We complete approximately 24,000 complaints <v David Ackerman>of those 32,000 with the limited personnel and we have saved the <v David Ackerman>public in the last fiscal year up to 6 million dollars in savings <v David Ackerman>to the public. And I think that's a good record. <v David Ackerman>I'd stand on that anywhere. <v Host>Tom, what it boils down to, one must know with whom one is dealing. <v Host>And as I recall, it's entirely possible to get a performance bond to guarantee the work <v Host>will be done, right? <v Tom Thompson>Clete, that's exactly what a consumer ought to do. <v Tom Thompson>We've talked to consumer experts. They say that if a contractor is a reputable <v Tom Thompson>contractor, you can get a performance bond. <v Tom Thompson>It cost you the consumer 1 to 1 and a half percent the total amount of the job. <v Tom Thompson>But it guarantees that you're going to get satisfaction. <v Tom Thompson>A contractor who is not reputable would have problems getting that bond.
<v Host>Thank you Tom, that's all our time. <v Host>[Another day]The past 12 months, we have presented several reports on the state <v Host>contractors board. Among the charges we've aired are allegations that contractors with <v Host>large numbers of complaints are allowed to operate without investigation, <v Host>that unqualified persons are licensed to do business, that the agency is insensitive <v Host>to consumer complaints, and that the management of the board is incompetent. <v Host>We have now learned that a contractor's license has been issued to a former top
<v Host>administrator of the contractor's board under questionable and possibly illegal <v Host>circumstances. Tom Thompson has been following the story from the beginning <v Host>and has the details. Tom. <v Tom Thompson>Well Clete, as you mentioned, we've been following this story for about a year now. <v Tom Thompson>It all began when we uncovered numerous complaints by consumers against the home <v Tom Thompson>remodeler called Standard American Builders. <v Tom Thompson>January, we took viewers on a tour of the Jackson family home. <v Tom Thompson>They had contracted with Standard American builders for some remodeling work in the <v Tom Thompson>kitchen and bathroom. 6 months after the work began, there were still holes in <v Tom Thompson>the ceiling where light fixtures should have been. <v Tom Thompson>There was a big hole where the kitchen sink should have been. <v Tom Thompson>In the bathroom, the sink wasn't connected and the shower wasn't working. <v Tom Thompson>How do you do things like bathing and brushing your teeth? <v Evelyn Jackson>Over the bathtub. <v Tom Thompson>The Jacksons were frustrated. No one was answering their complaints. <v Tom Thompson>We found that normally 4 or 5 complaints was enough for the contractors license board
<v Tom Thompson>to begin an investigation. <v Tom Thompson>But in the case of standard American builders, we had uncovered more than 100 complaints <v Tom Thompson>and there had been no investigation. <v Tom Thompson>It wasn't until we went to the board with our findings that any action was taken. <v Tom Thompson>The state attorney general filed an accusation against Standard American Builders and <v Tom Thompson>an injunction was granted ordering a halt to any illegal activity by the officers <v Tom Thompson>of Standard American Builders, which includes Jerry Cooper and Joyce Cooper. <v Tom Thompson>Our January story also included charges by public board member Lisa <v Tom Thompson>Keehen that the agency was ineffective, mismanaged and insensitive <v Tom Thompson>to consumer complaints regarding contractors like Standard American. <v Tom Thompson>David Ackerman, staff deputy to the registrar of contractors appeared on that show <v Tom Thompson>to deny those charges. <v David Ackerman>In response to your question regarding the enforcement <v David Ackerman>of the contractor State License Laws incorporated in the Business <v David Ackerman>and Professions Code, and that this agency may not be responsive
<v David Ackerman>to its duties to enforce these laws, I would <v David Ackerman>categorically refute any such statement because this agency's <v David Ackerman>record has been proven over the years to be one of the best enforcement <v David Ackerman>agencies under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs. <v Tom Thompson>To date, no action has been taken on the accusation filed by the attorney general <v Tom Thompson>and administrative hearing to see if standard American builders should lose their license <v Tom Thompson>has been continued to February at the request of Standard American's attorney <v Tom Thompson>who contends the company is doing everything it can to resolve outstanding complaints. <v Tom Thompson>Ironically, though, we have learned that David Ackerman, the man who defended <v Tom Thompson>the contractors board handling of complaints, is now in business as a contractor <v Tom Thompson>with Joyce Cooper. Joyce Cooper, you'll recall, is an officer of Standard <v Tom Thompson>American Builders and the wife of its president, Jerry Cooper. <v Tom Thompson>Ackerman is the president of Classic Associates, Inc..
<v Tom Thompson>The vice president of Classic Associates is Mark Cooper, Jerry Cooper's son. <v Tom Thompson>Joyce Cooper, according to Ackerman and Classic Associate's attorney, owns <v Tom Thompson>100 percent of the company. <v Tom Thompson>I talked to public board members Lisa Keehen and Phil Decker about the association <v Tom Thompson>between Ackerman and Joyce Cooper and asked for their reactions. <v Lisa Keehen>We are a consumer protection agency often called by <v Lisa Keehen>constituents and friends and people I work with who have had dealings with our agency. <v Lisa Keehen>And the first comment I get was, oh my gosh, they don't care about the consumer. <v Lisa Keehen>They don't care what we say. It seems like they know the contractor. <v Lisa Keehen>They're good buddy buddies. And I will look at them and say, no, we're not. <v Lisa Keehen>We're trying to do a good job. <v Lisa Keehen>And then our number 2 man joins association with our <v Lisa Keehen>number 1 top offender at the agency and our image- What <v Lisa Keehen>does the man on the street think about us? <v Lisa Keehen>What has to be done has to come from inside the agency, from the top all the way down.
<v Lisa Keehen>You asked me a few months ago when I was here, when last we met, were <v Lisa Keehen>we doing a good job? <v Lisa Keehen>I had to reply that we were falling short of what could be considered <v Lisa Keehen>in my own personal opinion a good job. <v Lisa Keehen>This example further adds to that evidence. <v Phil Decker>Within the agency, within the bureaucratic process, when an outfit like <v Phil Decker>Standard, like Classic Associates comes in with an application that has <v Phil Decker>the name on the application of a person against which this agency has <v Phil Decker>a civil action pending an injunction outstanding and also administrative proceedings <v Phil Decker>outstanding, there should be an automatic red flag system that that <v Phil Decker>that that just stops everything. <v Phil Decker>Dea- dead in the tracks of the application approval process <v Phil Decker>and further examination by the agency should have been <v Phil Decker>done as a matter of course, to determine whether or not it's proper to license people <v Phil Decker>like these people under these circumstances to do this kind of work.
<v Phil Decker>But apparently that simply did not happen. <v Tom Thompson>As a matter of fact, rather than being a red flag, this matter apparently was <v Tom Thompson>expedited in terms of Classic Associates getting a license. <v Tom Thompson>Was it not? <v Phil Decker>Expedited? Lightning should be so fast. <v Phil Decker>The registrar appeared and testified before this board that it takes <v Phil Decker>literally months and months and months for applicants for a license <v Phil Decker>to receive their license after they've submitted an application. <v Phil Decker>This situation was a little bit different. <v Phil Decker>Maybe it helps to be the number 2 man in an organization like this because it took a full <v Phil Decker>2 days for Classic Associates to get its license after it filed <v Phil Decker>its application. 2 days. <v Tom Thompson>Decker found that while Ackerman had taken a written test for his contractor's license, <v Tom Thompson>the experience requirement was another matter. <v Phil Decker>However, with respect to the experience side of things. <v Phil Decker>We find out that the experience that he used
<v Phil Decker>to try to qualify himself for these licenses was <v Phil Decker>experienced not out in the field, not working as a general building <v Phil Decker>contractor, not doing the kinds of things which contractors throughout the state by the <v Phil Decker>thousands have had to do in order to get a license. <v Phil Decker>No, we find out now that Mr. Ackerman qualified by way of <v Phil Decker>experience for riding a desk in an office for 10 <v Phil Decker>plus years. <v Phil Decker>Now, there is nothing in the entirety of the contractor's license law that I've <v Phil Decker>been able to find that says if you ride or jockey a desk long enough, <v Phil Decker>you can become qualified on the basis of that experience to become a contractor. <v Phil Decker>Yet the 1 person who can waive <v Phil Decker>the, the, the experience qualification for contractor's license in the entire <v Phil Decker>state of California, by law, 1 person. <v Phil Decker>The registrar of contractors. <v Phil Decker>And he waived it.
<v Tom Thompson>Ackerman refused to be interviewed on camera for this story, but he was able to talk <v Tom Thompson>to him off camera. He denied any association with Standard American Builders, <v Tom Thompson>said he would only remain with Classic Associates as long as everything was on the up and <v Tom Thompson>up. And he found no problem or conflict with working for a person who stood accused of <v Tom Thompson>violations of the contractor state license laws. <v Tom Thompson>Ackerman added that he felt he would be good for the home remodeling industry. <v Tom Thompson>A few doors up the street from Classic Associates Beverly Hills address, we asked to <v Tom Thompson>speak to Jerry or Joyce Cooper at Standard American's office. <v Tom Thompson>They were also unavailable for comment on the advice of their attorney. <v Tom Thompson>The front shades were even drawn covering the standard American sign that is usually <v Tom Thompson>visible. The sign had been exposed less than an hour before we shot these scenes. <v Tom Thompson>While I was checking this story, I ran across an interesting coincidence when <v Tom Thompson>I dialed information for a number for Classic Associates and then dialed the number I was <v Tom Thompson>given. The phone was answered, Standard American Builders, may I help you.
<v Tom Thompson>A check back with the information officer showed that Classic Associate's <v Tom Thompson>phone number was also listed as a number for Standard American Builders. <v Tom Thompson>Ackerman told me that the phone company had mixed up the order and he had asked that the <v Tom Thompson>matter be straightened out. <v Tom Thompson>There is another mix up to this story. <v Tom Thompson>I was told by the secretary of state that Classic Associates Inc. <v Tom Thompson>is not a California corporation, nor is it an out-of-state corporation <v Tom Thompson>qualified to do business in California. <v Tom Thompson>The contractors license board records indicate that it is a corporation. <v Tom Thompson>They gave me a corporate number to check. <v Tom Thompson>I then ask Jerry Hill, division chief of the secretary of state's office, to personally <v Tom Thompson>check out the discrepancy. <v Tom Thompson>The corporate number given me by the contractor's board proved to belong to a Classic <v Tom Thompson>Door and Cabinet company, Inc. <v Tom Thompson>Jerry Cooper and Joyce Cooper appear as current officers of that corporation. <v Tom Thompson>David Ackerman does not. Hill did tell me that a name reservation for Classic <v Tom Thompson>Associates Inc. had been made but was not used, and the reservation
<v Tom Thompson>of the name has since expired. <v Tom Thompson>That discrepancy raises some questions in the mind of a board member and attorney, Phil <v Tom Thompson>Decker. <v Phil Decker>According to written communication. <v Phil Decker>Very, very, very recent, the ink is hardly dry- from the secretary of state, they have <v Phil Decker>never heard of Classic Associates, Classic Associates Inc. <v Phil Decker>is, quote, not of record, close quote, with the secretary of state. <v Phil Decker>That means it's a non-existent corporation. <v Phil Decker>What that further means, Tom, is that apparently the contractor's license board, <v Phil Decker>if you can believe this- I suppose a lot of people can. <v Phil Decker>The license board issued a license to go out and do contracting work to a nonexistent <v Phil Decker>entity. In my judgment, if those facts are true, that license is <v Phil Decker>an invalid license, ain't worth the paper it's written on. <v Phil Decker>What that further means is that every contract, if those, if those facts upon <v Phil Decker>investigation turn out to be true, every person to- strike <v Phil Decker>that, every con- contract entered into with Classic <v Phil Decker>Associates is a misdemeanor.
<v Phil Decker>Contracting without a license is a misdemeanor in this state. <v Phil Decker>Every advertisement, for example, showing Classic Associates, Inc. <v Phil Decker>With a license board number, whatever that number is, 355555, <v Phil Decker>I think the typewriter started to stutter, is, <v Phil Decker>is a misdemeanor because it's containing false and misleading information, <v Phil Decker>in my judgment. A reasonable person, indeed, a reasonable attorney looking <v Phil Decker>at and advertisement like that, XYZ, Inc. <v Phil Decker>would be led to believe that it's a corporation. <v Phil Decker>Apparently, that's not true. <v Phil Decker>In addition, when you go beyond that, you get into, you get into false and misleading <v Phil Decker>advertising violation of BNP 17 500, for example. <v Phil Decker>Which, as it turns out, is also grounds for an unfair trade <v Phil Decker>practice. I mean, we're talking about a laundry list of <v Phil Decker>of possible, perhaps more than possible, violations of the law <v Phil Decker>involve, involving these people that's longer than your arm,
<v Phil Decker>longer than both arms. Single spaced. <v Phil Decker>We're talking about a situation here where the risk to the public, if nobody else, the <v Phil Decker>risk to the public of harm and injury is more than <v Phil Decker>substantial. I think it's imminent. <v Phil Decker>And it's with that in mind that this Monday morning, <v Phil Decker>I'm calling a press conference in San Francisco where I will be asking <v Phil Decker>for independent investigations to be conducted by the <v Phil Decker>district attorney of the county of Los Angeles and also by the attorney general's office <v Phil Decker>to get to the bottom of these facts in order to, to, to, to <v Phil Decker>enable the the proper course of law to, <v Phil Decker>to find its just stance in the public interest. <v Phil Decker>Tom, this is nonsense. <v Host>Tom, could the secretary of state have made a mistake? <v Tom Thompson>Of course. And anything can happen in the bureaucracy. <v Tom Thompson>The secretary of state lost it. Contractor state license board could have mixed up their
<v Tom Thompson>records or perhaps Classic Associates or their attorney simply never got around to filing <v Tom Thompson>it. Of course, they could have made a mistake. <v Tom Thompson>An investigation, however, would find out if that were true. <v Host 3>Well, how'd those telephone numbers get mixed up? <v Tom Thompson>Well, again, we can't get records from the phone company to say who, in fact, <v Tom Thompson>placed the order. Mr. Decker hopes that if they get an investigation, they have subpoena <v Tom Thompson>power, they can then find out if there wasn't a mistake. <v Host 3>Well, if the board mem- if the public board members so upset and they've asked for an <v Host 3>investigation. Why haven't they done more? <v Tom Thompson>Well, they've tried to do more in the past, Phyllis. <v Tom Thompson>They've tried to fire the current registrar of contractors. <v Tom Thompson>They'll try again at their next meeting next month. <v Tom Thompson>They want him to resign. Today, he refused to resign when they faced him with his <v Tom Thompson>charges. <v Host>Tom, again, what's the makeup of that board? How many public members? <v Tom Thompson>Well, there are 3 or 4 public members currently on the board now. <v Tom Thompson>And they say that they hope they have the votes now to turn it around after all of these <v Tom Thompson>charges have come out over the past year. <v Host>Thanks, Tom.
<v Host>[Another day] Ladies and gentlemen, good evening, Clete Roberts here, welcome to 28 <v Host>Tonight with my colleagues Tom Thompson and Susan <v Host>Friedman. During the past year, 28 Tonight, reporter Tom Thompson has <v Host>uncovered numerous abuses within the contractor state license board, the <v Host>licensing of incompetent contractors, huge backlogs of unresolved complaints, <v Host>favoritism and inefficiency have headed the list. <v Host>Tonight, Tom reports on the results of those investigations and on a dispute <v Host>involving one of the more outspoken contractors board members, Tom. <v Tom Thompson>Well, Clete, the first part of my report is really rather short. <v Tom Thompson>What's happened during the past year to correct the abuses? <v Tom Thompson>Virtually nothing. Consumer complaints have risen by 14 percent. <v Tom Thompson>The backlog in resolving those complaints is rising even faster. <v Tom Thompson>There are now 34,000 unresolved complaints before the contractor <v Tom Thompson>state license board. That's an increase of 85 percent over what it was a year ago. <v Tom Thompson>Meanwhile, license revocations are down 30 percent.
<v Tom Thompson>License suspensions are down nearly 40 percent. <v Tom Thompson>There've been several unsuccessful attempts to muster enough votes to fire the registrar <v Tom Thompson>of contractors because of this poor performance. <v Tom Thompson>Efforts to come up with a plan to disclose to consumers complaints about contractors <v Tom Thompson>have also repeatedly failed. <v Tom Thompson>Now, on top of all that, the contractors board members considered by most observers <v Tom Thompson>to be the most active consumer advocate on the board, is now under attack <v Tom Thompson>by the board itself and by the head of the state Consumer Affairs Department, Richard <v Tom Thompson>Spon. The board member is, Phil Decker. <v Tom Thompson>And here's what Spon wrote about Decker in a letter to Assemblyman Luis Pappan. <v Tom Thompson>He said on another front, I would like to reiterate to you my sentiments about Mr. <v Tom Thompson>Decker. I consider him an embarrassment to the board, the <v Tom Thompson>department, the administration and the entire public member cadre. <v Tom Thompson>If I had the power, I doubt that he would remain on the board. <v Tom Thompson>He listens to no one but himself and is no one's agent but his own.
<v Tom Thompson>He is also aware of my sentiments. <v Tom Thompson>Spon also told me by phone that Decker's aggressive attitude was blocking any <v Tom Thompson>meaningful board action that he was, quote, not a consumer advocate, <v Tom Thompson>but a consumer burden. Now, earlier today, I talked to Decker about his standing with <v Tom Thompson>the board and the Department of Consumer Affairs. <v Phil Decker>I don't know. I suppose my reaction is, is to observe simply that <v Phil Decker>you're trying to shoot the mail man for bringing bad news. <v Phil Decker>The fact of the matter is, is that this agency is in a crisis. <v Phil Decker>The fact of the matter is that people have created the crisis where people from <v Phil Decker>1 end of this state to the other, consumers and legitimate contractors alike, are getting <v Phil Decker>scorched and scorched badly by the thousands. <v Phil Decker>Now, if pointing that out and pointing to some of the many reasons why that is <v Phil Decker>happening today, if that's blasphemy, if that's heresy, if <v Phil Decker>that's burdensome to our erstwhile director of the Department of <v Phil Decker>Consumer Affairs. As far as I'm concerned, that's tough because I was not appointed
<v Phil Decker>to be a politician. I was not point- I was not appointed to look the other <v Phil Decker>way. I was not appointed to go for a walk or take a dive. <v Phil Decker>I was appointed to do a job in the public interest. <v Phil Decker>And by God, that's what I'm trying to do. <v Tom Thompson>After some of the charges, the board decided to not only look into some of the charges <v Tom Thompson>that you've made, charges that we've investigated at KCET. <v Tom Thompson>But the board also decided to investigate Phil Decker. <v Phil Decker>Let them look. <v Phil Decker>What can I say? You know, again, I don't care. <v Phil Decker>I don't care. But I wish the board would spend as much time looking into some of these <v Phil Decker>allegations about this sleazy nonsense that's happening behind the scenes within <v Phil Decker>that agency as they do looking at somebody who's trying to bring this information <v Phil Decker>out to the public. I don't have anything to hide for crying out loud. <v Phil Decker>Let them look. But for God's sake, I wish they'd start looking at some of the problems <v Phil Decker>with this agency. <v Tom Thompson>For nearly a year, there've been 2 things on the agenda, the removal of the register <v Tom Thompson>of contractors and the development of some kind of disclosure plan for
<v Tom Thompson>consumers. Month after month that's come up on the agenda, month after month that's <v Tom Thompson>been defeated. Why? <v Phil Decker>Tom, I don't know. I can't climb inside other people's heads. <v Phil Decker>My own guess would be in my own observation is that too many <v Phil Decker>people on that board are more concerned with playing 2 bit politics <v Phil Decker>than they are with getting the job done. <v Phil Decker>And as long as those priorities remain that far out of whack, this <v Phil Decker>agency is going to continue to remain in a very, very serious crisis. <v Phil Decker>Beyond that, thousands of people throughout the state of California are going to continue <v Phil Decker>to get ripped off, burned. I'm talking about contractors and consumers alike. <v Phil Decker>And in my humble view, that is intolerable. <v Tom Thompson>We're told that there's a lot of legislative pressure on the Department of Consumer <v Tom Thompson>Affairs. Are you as a public board member, feeling that kind of pressure? <v Phil Decker>Oh, sure. Sure. <v Phil Decker>And I don't like it. I wasn't appointed to be a 2 bit politician.
<v Phil Decker>I was appointed to get a job done. And as far as I'm concerned, the sooner the handful <v Phil Decker>of those gumshoe legislators get off our back, the sooner we can get on with doing our <v Phil Decker>job. <v Host>Tom, what is Spon's stake in this ?inaudible? <v Host>The contractor state license board has been his biggest headache within the Department of <v Host>Consumer Affairs, and the legislature has been putting quite a bit of pressure on them to <v Host>lay off the aggressive policy of consumer protection. <v Host>So, matter of fact, this May. The assembly voted to withhold his salary <v Host>and 1 of his second in command left. <v Host>They reinstat- reinstated the money, but only until February of next year, which is about <v Host>3 months from now. They'll be reviewing his salary again. <v Host>He may not have a salary. <v Host>A good way to bring pressure on a man, isn't it, to pull back his paycheck? <v Tom Thompson>Certainly seems to be that way. <v Host 4>Is this part of the good ol boy network that all those people on the board just want to <v Host 4>keep Decker quiet and have business as usual? <v Tom Thompson>Well, that may be part of it. <v Tom Thompson>When I talk to Mr. Spon, and some of the board members are reluctant to talk about <v Tom Thompson>this until they've completed what they call their investigation.
<v Tom Thompson>They basically said that the problem is that Mr. Decker is so aggressive <v Tom Thompson>that he's turning people off that they can't go along with him because of his aggressive <v Tom Thompson>and what some people even say obnoxious attitude is. <v Host 4>So it's his style, not when he's saying. <v Tom Thompson>It's his style, exactly what he's saying. <v Host>Briefly, Tom, will anything ever come of all this? Or will it just be business as usual? <v Tom Thompson>The next meeting is December the 8th. <v Tom Thompson>We're told that the disclosure may pass at that time and that the registrar of <v Tom Thompson>voters is probably going to be fired. <v Host>[Another day] Ladies and gentlemen, good evening, Clete Roberts here, welcome to 28
<v Host>Tonight. My colleagues Tom Thompson, Susan Freedman <v Host>and guest reporter this evening, Gail Diane Cox. <v Host>There has been a major development in the controversy surrounding the contractor <v Host>state license board. Here with the details is Tom Thompson. <v Tom Thompson>Well Clete, at today's monthly meeting, the contractor state license board, it was held <v Tom Thompson>in Irvine in Orange County, the board did basically 3 things. <v Tom Thompson>One, they fired the top man. They voted to remove the registrar of contractors, Angelo <v Tom Thompson>Stanieves from his position as head of the agency. <v Tom Thompson>Number 2, and more surprisingly even, is that they also voted to remove Phil <v Tom Thompson>Decker, who was the most verbal consumer advocate on the board from his position on the <v Tom Thompson>board. The board also decided in the third action to ask the <v Tom Thompson>Department of Consumer Affairs to investigate the granting of a contractor's <v Tom Thompson>license board to the contractor's former top aide under what <v Tom Thompson>were considered to be somewhat questionable circumstances.
<v Tom Thompson>Stories that we had reported on some weeks ago. <v Host 4>Tell me, why did they fire these guys? <v Tom Thompson>Well, Stanieves was removed as the head of the agency. <v Tom Thompson>It's a fight that's been going on for about a year now. They tried a year ago to fire <v Tom Thompson>him. And almost every month there has been major controversy over his poor management <v Tom Thompson>of the board, a large backlog of consumer complaints, low morale on the board. <v Tom Thompson>Things simply weren't getting done at all. <v Tom Thompson>And many of the board people felt that they needed someone else in there who could <v Tom Thompson>perhaps do the job better. <v Host>Tom, I think we got to point out to some of our new viewers that this is a story we've <v Host>been working upon for a long time in the past year. <v Host>Tom's been on top of it, investigating it and reporting it very carefully. <v Host>Mr. Decker, for example, who was fired on so today was on this broadcast about 2 weeks <v Host>ago, wasn't it, Tom? <v Tom Thompson>Yes. <v Host>And he surprisingly, I would say, was the last <v Host>man 1 would think would be fired. He was the advocate for the consumer, wasn't he? <v Tom Thompson>Well, many of the consumer groups consider Phil Decker to be their leading spokesperson. <v Tom Thompson>He's an extremely outspoken, spoken individual.
<v Tom Thompson>The reasons for removing Phil Decker from the board were that he was refusing <v Tom Thompson>to cooperate with the board majority. <v Tom Thompson>And more surprisingly, even then, that part of the reason for Decker's removal <v Tom Thompson>as a board member were charges that he had gone to the press, including KCET, <v Tom Thompson>on numerous occasions to air the contractor state license board dirty linen. <v Host>Tom, did they actually say that? <v Tom Thompson>They said that. They said that that inhibited their ability to work together <v Tom Thompson>harmoniously and to get things taken care of. <v Host>So they're putting a muzzle on everyone else, is that it? <v Host>Behave yourself. <v Tom Thompson>Well, Mr. Decker contends that that's exactly what's going on. <v Tom Thompson>He says it's a ?inaudible? chamber, that they're simply trying to stop him from talking <v Tom Thompson>and that if he sees any problems, he's going to continue talking about it. <v Tom Thompson>In an earlier broadcast, we had talked about some of those problems and Richard <v Tom Thompson>Spon, who is the head of the Department of Consumer Affairs, had felt that Phil Decker's <v Tom Thompson>outspoken attitude was getting in the way of real progress. <v Tom Thompson>So there's 2 lines of thought on that. <v Tom Thompson>Say, they're appointed by the governor.
28 Tonight
State Contractors Licensing Board
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KCET (Television station : Los Angeles, Calif.)
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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"This segment, one of several in our continuing investigation of the California State Contractors Licensing Board, showed a typical victim of shoddy work by a home improvement contractor. The investigation revealed that the problem is widespread and that many consumer complaints were languishing at the staff office of the Board without official attention. So-called public members of the board were critical of the staff's effectiveness. One contractor had nearly 100 complaints lodged against it, with no action from the Board. (One staff official of the board was discovered to have left state employ and to have gone into business in the same field he was supposed to have been regulating. In fact, his firm was a subsidiary of the contractor with the most numerous complaints [filed] against it.)"The information in parentheses is included to indicate the direction the succeeding segments of the investigation took. Most recently, the chief of staff of the Board resigned under pressure, mainly generated from a public outcry in response to our investigation."--1978 Peabody Awards entry form.
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Executive Producer: Gilson, Gary
Producer: Salter, Nancy
Producing Organization: KCET (Television station : Los Angeles, Calif.)
Reporter: Thompson, Tom
AAPB Contributor Holdings
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
Identifier: cpb-aacip-74ce8330042 (Filename)
Format: U-matic
Duration: 00:30:00
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Chicago: “28 Tonight; State Contractors Licensing Board,” 1978-01-09, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “28 Tonight; State Contractors Licensing Board.” 1978-01-09. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: 28 Tonight; State Contractors Licensing Board. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from