A Chester man who is suing Middlefield's top building official alleging that he stole more than $50,000 from him after agreeing to build his dream home said this week that he has uncovered more evidence that supports a lawsuit he filed nearly two years ago.
Joseph M. Cohen appeared before the town's Board of Selectmen on Monday evening where he briefly spoke about his pending lawsuit against Robert M. Meyers, a former general contractor who now serves as the town's building inspector.
Meyers, Cohen told selectmen, had been named in a 2006 complaint filed with the state's Department of Consumer Protection and the Office of the Chief State's Attorney. The complaint, according to records provided by Cohen, was filed by a New Jersey couple who hired Meyers to build their "dream home" in Durham.
"[It's] one of the most terrifying examples of how a builder who doesn't follow the law, who doesn't abide by decent business practices can use the court system, the Department of Consumer Protection even the state's attorneys office and to basically run people around in circles for years for tens and tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars and ultimately keep his image okay," Cohen said.
According to the documents, John J. and Sandy Christopher of Saddle River, New Jersey, accused Meyers of using "coercion" and "deceit" in the process of building a home at 23 Cheyenne Trail.
"We contracted with Mr. Meyers to construct our dream home in Durham and it has turned out to be a complete disaster," a July 2007 letter addressed to the state's Elder Abuse Bureau from John Christoper reads.
In the letter, Christopher accuses Meyers of taking shortcuts during construction of the home and pocketing the money himself. "The bottom line is we are not getting what we are paying for," Christopher wrote. "This entire fiasco has caused us great pain."
According to the documents, the couple claimed to have lost more than $60,000 to Meyers in addition to paying about $40,000 in legal fees. Less than a year after the complaint was filed Meyers sold the home to another couple and the state took no decisive action against Meyers, Cohen said.
Cohen, a former newspaper reporter, has appeared at at least a half-dozen board meetings since January alleging that no fewer than five other homeowners in Durham and East Haddam had been victimized by Meyers while he was a home builder.
Meyers, who now lives in East Haddam, was a self-employed general contractor when Cohen signed a contract with him in 2010 to build a home at 11 Kings Highway in Chester, a property Cohen purchased in 1999.
But soon after work at the property began the town halted construction over permitting, Cohen says. In his lawsuit, Cohen claims Meyers left the job and refused to work with town officials to remedy the situation.
Cohen further alleges that Meyers used the money he paid him to build the home to pay for various personal expenses, including a divorce lawyer, truck repairs and even his own home.
Meyers has filed a counterclaim accusing Cohen of libel and slander.
"This is a matter that really needs to be litigated in a court system," Meyers' attorney, Jennifer Farrell, said at a recent board meeting. "A lot of what Mr. Cohen is alleging is really not for this forum."
Based on his accusations, Cohen has urged town officials to review Meyers' hiring. Selectmen however have not commented on Cohen's allegations or on whether they are reviewing Meyers' role as the town's building inspector.
A trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 24 in Middletown.
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