Middlefield’s part-time building official has paid a $250 fine to the state’s Department of Consumer Protection in connection with allegations that he failed to follow certain consumer protection laws when he negotiated and later signed a contract to build a home for a client.
Robert M. Meyers, of East Haddam, who earns $37,813 in his 21-hour-per-week job in Middlefield, paid the fine “for offering to perform or performing new home construction work and not being in compliance with Sec. 20-417d” of the state’s New Home Construction Act, according to a document Meyers signed Sept. 19 with the consumer protection department.
Sec. 20-417d of the state’s New Home Construction Act requires, in part that new home contractors be registered with the state and that they disclose certain information to prospective clients, such as advising them that data is available on the contractor through the consumer protection offices and providing them with the names of former clients.
Under the terms of the document Meyers signed, called an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, the former home builder agreed to follow state consumer protection laws but did not admit that he violated any of them.
Meyers’ agreement with the consumer protection department settled a complaint filed against him by a former client, Joseph M. Cohen. The complaint is part of a larger legal battle between Meyers and Cohen.
In a lawsuit he filed earlier this year against Meyers, Cohen says that in the fall of 2009 Meyers began contract negotiations with him to build a house but later learned that Meyers at the time of those negotiations wasn’t registered with the state or insured as a new home builder. He says Meyers obtained his state-required registration as a home builder just days before signing the contract in the summer of 2010 to build Cohen a new home in Chester.
In addition, Cohen alleges that Meyers undertook work at the home site without a town building permit and refused to meet with local building officials to discuss the problem. After he fired Meyers in late 2010, Cohen says in his lawsuit, Meyers refused to return a $53,500 deposit Cohen had given him. Meyers operated a home building business called Robert M. Meyers Inc. based out of his home in East Haddam. His state registration as a home builder has since lapsed.
Meyers, Cohen alleges in the lawsuit, committed fraud and violated the state’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Meyers has filed a counterclaim in the legal action accusing Cohen of libel and slander. He says Cohen, a former newspaper reporter, contacted media outlets and state agencies, including a consumer watchdog and the consumer protection department, and made “defamatory” and “malicious” statements to them about Meyers. He says in his counterclaim that Cohen has also publicly made uncomplimentary comments about him “with the intent to cause harm, financial and other, both personally and professionally” to Meyers.
In his counterclaim, Meyers accuses Cohen of breaching the contract between them for the new home, saying Cohen failed to disclose to him zoning restrictions on the home site in Chester that limited Meyers in getting a building permit for the site.
In an interview this week Meyers said the preliminary site work he did on the property, which included digging the foundation hole, did not require a building permit.
“I did nothing wrong,” he said.
Cohen’s lawsuit and Meyers’ counterclaim are currently pending in Middlesex Superior Court. In one of the most recent actions in the case, a judge agreed to a “prejudgment remedy” which required Meyers to place $38,000 in escrow to await the outcome of the case and allowed Cohen to place a $50,000 lien on Meyers’ East Haddam home, Cohen said in a press release he issued this week.
He alleges in his lawsuit that Meyers has had other consumer complaints filed against him by former clients. He included in his legal action documents indicating consumer complaints filed against Meyers in 2001, 2004 and 2008.
You can view the pdf above of the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance that Meyers signed.