July 28, 2014

Elyria
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Investigation: Did building inspector say construction permit was unnecessary?

LORAIN — The city’s law director is investigating whether a Building Department employee was negligent when he allegedly told a resident not to acquire a building permit for a home improvement project.

Law Director Mark Provenza said building inspector Saul Plaza could be charged with dereliction of duty or aiding and abetting in violating a contract registration if Provenza determines the allegations are valid.

Plaza, however, said the allegations were brought by a reassigned Building Department employee who misheard a conversation he was having with a resident seeking a building permit.Plaza said that on Aug. 16, a resident came in inquiring about what was needed to make improvements on his home. During the conversation, the resident insisted on pulling out a permit only for himself even though he and a contractor would be working on the house, Plaza said.

“I told him he could do that, but he would still have to get a permit for the contractor, otherwise the contractor would be unlicensed,” Plaza said.

William Desvari, head of the Building Department, said he was in his office when the conversation was taking place, but was asked to eavesdrop by building inspector Keith Waters because Waters thought he heard Plaza say the resident didn’t need a permit at all.

“He misheard what (Plaza) said,” according to Desvari. “Plaza did exactly as he was supposed to do.”

Desvari said he was contacted 12 days later by Lorain police Detective Albert Rivera, who said he was investigating the conversation. Desvari also learned that original copies of documents related to the resident’s project were taken from his office and handed over to police by whoever made the allegations.

“I am the purveyor of all building department records, and no one can remove originals from this office without my permission,” Desvari said.

Police recently turned the investigation over to Provenza to determine if anything illegal had occurred, Lorain police Sgt. Mark Carpentiere said.

In a letter to Safety Service Director Mike Kobylka dated Sept. 6, Desvari accused Waters of taking the documents from his office and taking off work three days without telling anyone.

He asked that Kobylka fire Waters, but Kobylka said Tuesday that he was awaiting Provenza’s decision before taking any action.

Meantime, Kobylka has reassigned Waters to the Utilities Department.

Contact Adam Wright at 653-6257 or awright@chroniclet.com.