Licensing Board for General Contractors dodges WBTV questions after customers were ripped off

Construction Corruption: Is the state checking on contractors before granting licenses?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A WBTV Investigation has raised new questions about whether contractors are being thoroughly vetted before being granted a license. The North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors would not answer specific questions about how a swimming pool contractor, who lied about lawsuits and bankruptcies he was facing, ended up getting a license anyway.

WBTV has extensively reported on the plight of customers at Charlotte Fiberglass Swimming Pools. Nearly 40 people who paid the company thousands of dollars for a new pool reached out to WBTV to tell us that Charlotte Fiberglass didn’t deliver on their product.

“Literally everything that they’ve touched is wrong,” Adele Hallyburton said.

“We were out a good bit of money and it looks like crap,” Chelsea Cain said.

A WBTV Investigation found that the owner of Charlotte Fiberglass Pools, the late Gabe Ortiz, and his wife Niury Ortiz filed for bankruptcy in 2011 after another pool company they owned failed.

Just two years later, Ortiz applied for another license the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors under the company name Bananafish. But Ortiz didn’t disclose numerous lawsuits, contract controversies or even the bankruptcy. State records show that the NCLBGC granted Ortiz his license and the falsehoods were never an issue.

On years of license renewal paperwork, Ortiz continued to provide false information about his legal history to the board but it was never an issue.

The contractor application for the NCLBGC states “giving false or forged evidence of any kind in this document or any other document submitted to the Board constitutes a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $500.00 or imprisonment of up to three months, or both.”

“If you’re getting a general contractors license there should be some validation that the things you are saying are true. If not what’s the point?”

The Executive Director of the Licensing Board, Frank Wesiner, turned down WBTV’s request for an interview on three separate occasions.

Because Weisner wouldn’t agree to an interview WBTV showed up to a Licensing Board meeting, that was being held at the construction headquarters of one of the board members.

Weisner originally tried to prohibit WBTV from bringing cameras into the meeting claiming it was board policy to not allow photography. However, legal counsel for the Licensing Board allowed our cameras inside.

During the board meeting board members were deliberating license applicants who had criminal records. But it was clear that board staff did not have all the criminal records for the applicants, even though board policy requires they submit all criminal record documents.

At one point board members were debating why an applicant was convicted of a Level 5 DUI since they didn’t know the circumstances of the arrest, something court records would easily explain.

There was also confusion about different applicants’ conviction dates, addresses and other basic information.

After the meeting was over a WBTV Investigative Reporter waited outside the meeting room to interview Frank Weisner but he bolted from the building without answering any questions.

Weisner previously provided a email statement on Charlotte Fiberglass Pools that did not answer any of our questions.

Statement from Frank Weisner: On or around May 1, 2019 the Board received a document from Bananafish, LLC’s attorney containing a document titled Voluntary Surrender of License which was executed by Niuraisha Ortiz an officer of the licensed company. The executed Voluntary Surrender of License contains an acknowledgement that the licensee understands that the voluntary surrender of the license is considered by the Board to be a revocation of the license pursuant to G.S. §87-11(a). A revocation is the most severe action the Board can take against a license. Any matters that were pending before the Board with regards to license # 73135 are now closed pursuant to the surrender/revocation.

Customers for Charlotte Fiberglass Swimming Pools are looking for more.

“For me it’s been three years and that’s the game with everyone, it’s push you off long enough for you to give up,” Hallyburton said.

“I have a lot of appreciation for the fact that you guys(WBTV) keep,” Chelsea Cain said.

“Because if you weren’t I feel like it would just be forgotten about.”

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