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The State

State Contractors Board Falls Into Disrepair

Homeowners are upset that regulators can't better protect them from bad builders.

August 15, 2004|Jordan Rau | Times Staff Writer

Both the contractors board and Schwarzenegger's administration agree that the board needs more investigators. But progress thus far has been slow. The administration has been mainly concerned with eliminating backlogs in processing licenses for contractors.

"As far as solving problems with the consumer, I don't see that happening," said Jody Costellos, who started a website, www.contractorsfromhell.com, after her own negative experience in San Diego.

Since the hiring freeze was lifted in May, the board has hired people for 11 of 18 vacant jobs. Four of the new hires are in enforcement.

The governor's administration says it will not authorize adding any jobs for the board until all its vacancies are filled.

Larry Booth, chairman of the 15-member contractors board, said the governor's finance department has been "tight-fisted," though he says "there's a dawning awakening" that the board should not be treated like agencies that rely on general tax revenues.

"Although we take in more money than we are allowed to spend, we don't have discretion to spend it," Booth said. "There are a lot of areas that we should be investigating, and because we are not able to staff those levels fully, we're not able to do it at the levels the consumer would like to see."

Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), who heads the legislative panel that oversees boards, has proposed legislation to allow boards to increase their staff without administration approval so long as they can afford it, but Schwarzenegger's finance department does not support the measure.

Julianne D'Angelo Fellmeth, who worked on the contractors board enforcement monitoring program and now is the monitor for the Medical Board, said: "It's consumer fraud to create these agencies and encourage consumers and other law enforcement agencies to rely on them, and then to turn around and strip them of the funds and the staff that they need to do their job effectively."

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