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BMHC sued by construction workers

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A Pasadena, Calif., law firm has filed suit on behalf of several construction workers who claim they were frequently shortchanged on wages while working for SelectBuild, the former construction services division of BMHC. Plaintiffs from California, Arizona and Nevada are seeking class action status for the case, filed Sept. 23 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The lawsuit was announced yesterday during news conferences held in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Las Vegas by the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA). The union said it has been investigating SelectBuild’s employment practices in these states and found “pervasive” wage and hour violations. SelectBuild employees were routinely asked to sign blank timecards or timecards that understated their hours, according to the lawsuit, which gave the average amount of unpaid time as five to 15 hours per week.

In a report, also released yesterday, entitled “The Newest Victims of the Housing Market Crisis,” LIUNA places some blame on production builders who demanded price cuts and other concessions from SelectBuild and other subcontractors.

BMHC did not respond to a Home Channel News request for comments on the Sept. 23 lawsuit. But during an analyst conference on Aug. 14, CEO Robert Mellor answered an analyst’s inquiry about “sordid allegations” against the company by saying: “We are not cutting back on safety or benefits. This is a move by the union group to push their agenda.”

Mellor was referring to a LIUNA demonstration at BMHC’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Houston, where the union protested what they characterized as unfair layoffs, pay cuts and hazardous working conditions on SelectBuild job sites. Concurrent protests were also held at SelectBuild locations in Southern California and Las Vegas.

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Home builder sentenced to 90 days

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Brian Brady, president of Utah-based Cobalt Homes, has been sentenced to 90 days in a case of subcontractor and homeowner fraud, according to local news reports.

Brady was sentenced by a Salt Lake County third district court judge to 90 days, with a fine of more than $300,000 for defrauding homeowners. He also will serve six years probation after pleading guilty to four third-degree felony counts of communications fraud.

Brady was charged after failing to fulfill promises to homeowners to pay liens that had been placed against them from subcontractors that did work for Cobalt. The builder developed resort areas in and around the city of Draper, Utah.

According to Utah court records, Brady filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in July 2008.

Additionally, an office manager for Cobalt homes named Melissa Brunner earlier pleaded guilty to four Class A misdemeanor charges of attempted communications fraud. Her sentence was suspended, but she was ordered to pay a fine of around $130,000 in the matter.

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Workshops set for “mislabeled” building materials

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The Lumber Association of California and Nevada (LACN) will hold a series of workshops in September and October on “Testing Lumber and Building Materials.” Held in cooperation with the Department of Food and Agriculture, Division of Measurement Standards, the sessions will explore California’s stepped-up inspections of lumberyards for “mislabeled” products, resulting in citations, fines and red-tagging (removing from for-sale inventory). Criteria include panel sizes and thickness.

The workshops will also address how the measurement standards affect LBM manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors.

Workshops run through mid-October and will be held in Rancho Cordova, Redding, Santa Clara, Riverside, Burbank and San Diego. They are open to both LACN member and non-members. For more information on dates and times, visit www.lumberassociation.org.

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