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Prominent contractor’s license suspended after complaints of shoddy work

TERRI HARBER, The Daily NewsMay 27, 2019

BULLHEAD CITY — The Arizona Registrar of Contractors has revoked the license of RML Residential Properties LLC of Bullhead City.

James Zaborsky was the license holder. Richard Lettman is listed as the owner of the corporation, according to the ROC.

A bankruptcy protection case was filed last month with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Arizona for RML, which also does business as Village Construction.

Zaborsky also is president of the board for the Laughlin-Bullhead City International Airport and was a Mohave County supervisor representing District 2 from 1997-2000. He started to run for District 5 supervisor last year but dropped out of the race. Among reasons he cited for that decision were health complications.

He also recently served on the Bullhead City Elementary School Board and Bullhead City Fire Board. Zaborsky and his wife, Louise, were the Boom Masters of the Boom Box Parade in 2017 and highly lauded for their many years of community involvement.

Less than a year after the parade, it became apparent to Zaborsky that he had too many job commitments at a time when trying to finding good construction subcontractors was a near-impossible task, he said Tuesday after being contacted for comment about the ROC decision that took away the company’s state license.

Two ROC cases against RML remain open. Five other cases resulted in disciplinary action against Zaborsky and Village Construction by the state agency, which licenses and regulates residential and commercial contractors. Its staff also investigates complaints against licensed contractors and unlicensed entities and seeks ways to resolve disputes.

New residents still affected by job not completed

Fernando and Maria Parra relocated from California to a large, two-story home in Bullhead City. They hired Zaborsky to do renovations.

They wanted to upgrade the kitchen, install new floors and carpeting and modify the living room.

Fernando’s mother has trouble negotiating stairs and needed a nice bedroom downstairs. A space was to be modified for her needs.

A master bedroom and bathroom renovation was to provide the couple with ample, functional space.

It was a lot of work but they had a great deal of renovation completed on their previous home. However, saying that was less traumatic and expensive than this latest experience would be a major understatement.

“Our house is completely ruined,” Fernando Parra said. “Nobody would want to own this place.”

Work at the 4,000-square-foot home started in May 2018, by Village Construction using the family’s $30,000 deposit, was deemed “substandard” by the city inspector in June. Specifically cited were plumbing and electrical deficiencies. The city also ordered that work be halted.

In early July, Zaborsky issued an invoice to the couple for another $17,459 and said more money was needed to complete the work because the initial $30,000 had been spent. The city issued a permit for part of the project in early August.

Parra went to the ROC and said the work on the home was done poorly and that Village Construction delayed completing the project. While an initial agreement was made for Zaborsky to finish the work in the Parras’ home, that didn’t occur. So the couple reopened the ROC case.

Zaborsky admitted that Village Construction started work on the Parra home without proper permits and didn’t employ a licensed electrical contractor after a city official contacted the business Zaborsky had claimed did the work. The company Zaborsky named reported to a city official that it had completed “no work on the property,” according to the ROC case decision.

Zaborsky was told by the state to begin making numerous corrections to the home but that didn’t happen. As a result, an ROC hearing was scheduled.

Zaborsky testified that the company’s project manager no longer worked there, further complicating matters.

The ROC case decision cited 26 problems that required remedy by Village Construction. These included paint rehab, putting down flooring and fully installing an array of fixtures. There were some items damaged that needed to be repaired and areas not renovated had to be completed.

The Parra family still is confined mostly to their sleeping areas because of uninstalled large appliances and stacks of flooring materials taking up space.

A door leading to the laundry room was so misaligned that it not only wouldn’t shut but had a gap between the floor and door edge so wide that a small dog could walk under it. There were visible gaps in some areas between the floor and walls that would remain obvious even with baseboard.

And the master bedroom and bathroom looked as if a hurricane blew through. Bathroom fixtures sat unused because they weren’t hooked up.

Finding someone to complete the job will cost the Parras additional money. There is damage to materials left behind as well as to some of the items they wanted installed.

Dream home becomes nightmare

Ron Paulsen said his dream home high on a hill with a view of the Topock Marsh was going to be a wonderful place for him to live in retirement and for his adult daughters to enjoy.

Time enjoying the outdoors instead has been spent on his computer trying to get help to finish work on his house.

His family lived in California but spent a significant amount of time recreating in the Tri-state. They owned a piece of land in Topock and he eventually acquired it. Paulsen said he had ideas about how to use the land in his retirement. He was excited to have a home of his own with plenty of space for his three daughters to stay when they would visit. It was designed with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

“I figured they’d all be out here this summer to visit Dad and be on the river,” he said.

And with unique elements, such as a mock-distressed exterior and plenty of rounded edges, the custom-built home would resemble a fort and stand out from other residences in the neighborhood.

The construction job for which Paulsen contracted with Zaborsky was far from complete. The patio facing the marsh wasn’t finished and windows facing it leaked. They were covered with opaque plastic to keep out the water during what turned out to be a fairly wet several months, Paulsen explained.

The front entrance was nowhere close to being finished. Neither was the kitchen, where there was one side of an island.

The small area where the water heater and water filters go was fitted with an entrance too small to get a water heater inside.

An empty hole outside was supposed to hold the home’s sanitary sewer system.

A concrete mixer and scaffolding were left outside the structure.

He’s out a great deal of money and will have to find someone to step in and do the remaining work and make corrections.

And instead of living in a spacious house, Paulsen has taken up residence in a small mobile home.

“I’m lucky that I have that to stay in,” he said. “I’m already out about $200,000.”

Paulsen predicted it’ll cost him tens of thousands of dollars to get his home completed.

Zaborsky’s explanation

In addition to problems Zaborsky said began when his project manager departed and he took on too many clients, he said his health issues — including the need for triple-bypass heart surgery, insertion of a pacemaker and, most recently, a heart valve — started affecting memory and ability to reason.

“I built a house without a contract. They didn’t have the last amount. ... A bid on one job was wrong,” he said.

Things continued to spiral out of control.

He said: “My brother (Richard Lettman) owned the company. He did the paperwork but it was my job to make sure the jobs were done.”

By mid-2018, they had 15 jobs to complete — too large a number to complete within a reasonable amount of time.

“He asked me to stop,” Zaborsky recalled.

Another error in judgment was taking out high-interest loans to cover the financial gap.

“That’s our fault,” Zaborsky said. “We were trying to keep the cash flow going.”

Financial losses suffered by the Parras and Paulsen exceed the maximum payout on the bond licensed contractors are required to post. Such bonds ensure customers receive a return on their deposit if the project goes awry.

Paulsen said he was informed his construction project of a home from the ground up didn’t qualify for bond coverage.

However, Zaborsky pointed out that his bad decision-making has lead to financial hardship of his own.

“I sold my house. ... Cashed out my retirement. ... Sold my Harley-Davison ...,” he said. “I haven’t paid myself for months. I ran out of money.”

Zaborsky voluntarily canceled two licenses several years ago for Village Oaks Mortgage Inc., which also operated under the name of Village Construction.

Lettman still possesses two active licenses under Tri State Restoration: a general commercial A license and a general dual building contractor license. Both licenses list Keith Allan Parker as the qualifying party.

Parker wasn’t involved in the RML jobs that were subject to the complaints. There are no complaints filed against Tri State.

Non-construction businesses owned by Lettman are separate from this action, too.

Jim Knupp, public information officer of the ROC, said 93% of Arizona contractors never receive a customer complaint.

Half of the cases brought against construction contractors in Arizona result from work done by those who aren’t licensed by the state. The most common cases are brought because of abandoning jobs or poor workmanship.

Knupp asked people who have had problems with this or any contractors to contact the state agency for assistance. Https://Roc.az.gov has details about filing a complaint as well as information about how to choose a contractor or look up information about a contractor you are considering for a job.

Knupp also pointed out the ROC’s Building Confidence Program, which helps resolve issues early on between contractor and client if they can’t reach accord on their own. It can be helpful in some instances.

Bullhead City and nearby locations are served by ROC’s Flagstaff office. An appointment is required for in-person visits. There are field agents around the state as well.

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