November 23, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
56°F
test

State warns of building records problems

The state Board of Building Standards has alerted local officials of problems it is having with Ken Klingshirn, the building coordinator for LaGrange who is the focus of a state investigation into his activities.

The matter will be discussed in meetings next week in a number of communities, according to representatives of some of the three villages and nine townships served by Klingshirn.

The news that Klingshirn surrendered his certifications with the state in 2000 surprised some officials.

“We thought he was certified,” said Elyria Township Trustee William Holtzman.

Wellington Village Administrator Steve Pyles said the village hasn’t had any complaints from builders or residents but said, “We’ll be looking at it closely.”

The communities were alerted to problems the state had with LaGrange’s commercial and residential building departments overseen by Klingshirn, which included “misrepresentation” and “inadequate and non-retrievable records,” according to Regina Hanshaw, executive secretary of the state board.

“At this point it’s a courtesy, because we didn’t have any complaints about the other jurisdictions,” Hanshaw said.

The state Board of Building Standards found that Klingshirn had no database to keep track of records of projects kept at his Michigan Avenue home in Elyria. Six months after the initial probe started, he still had no system to show the state, according to the findings.

“After repeated requests for the records by the building official, Mr. Klingshirn began to provide the records in numerous unorganized cardboard boxes more than a year after the initial request and to date has not provided all of them,” the state board’s report said.

While Klingshirn contracts with certified inspectors to do the inspections, the state found a problem was “misrepresentation” because each person interviewed thought Klingshirn was the person responsible for making decisions on building code enforcement, the report said.

Among the problems cited by the state were:

n Noncompliant certificates of occupancy.

n Incorrect actions relating to findings of noncompliance.

n No office conveniently located and open during normal business hours.

n Questions by applicants and citizens were not answered in any detail, and usually they were responded to with, “Here’s the website where the code is.”

n Inspections conducted exclusively after normal business hours.

n Inadequate communication between contractors and citizens and inspectors and building officials.

n Inadequate logs of inspections.

n Lack of building official oversight.

Klingshirn allowed a reporter and photographer into his home on Thursday and showed some of the records kept in file cabinets in two rooms. Other documents are stored at a large storage unit near Chestnut Commons, he said.

He alleged that the state Board of Building Standards is biased against him and that his problems date back to 1997, when he insisted that a sprinkler system be included in a new fireworks store in Perkins Township.

But Matt Mullins, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Commerce, which oversees the state Board of Building Standards, said, “These violations came about as a result of complaints filed by citizens.”

Klingshirn, 80, said he surrendered his certifications in 2000 because it would have cost some $50,000 to hire an attorney to help him keep them.

Klingshirn said he serves the villages of South Amherst, LaGrange and Wellington, along with Amherst, Brownhelm, Carlisle, Columbia, Eaton, Elyria, LaGrange, Pittsfield and New Russia townships.

The county prosecutor’s office is looking into the matter on behalf of the townships, according to Gerald Innes, chief of the civil division.

Townships don’t have building departments, so there is nothing to decertify, Innes said.

“We’re going to look into it, but this is an independent contractor,” Innes said of Klingshirn.

Availability of records is a concern, Innes said.

He said records of any recent building application should be available to any member of the public within a day, but there is a longer lead time for older records.

While the law requires that records be made available to the public, Innes said, “There’s no rule or law you can’t keep records at your home.”

Innes said the violations cited by the state “speak for themselves” and he declined to comment further.

LaGrange Mayor Kim Strauss said the village plans to contest the findings of the board and work out a possible resolution of any problems.

If worse comes to worst, Strauss said Klingshirn assured him he would step aside.

“He won’t do anything to get the village in trouble,” Strauss said.

The state investigation concluded that Klingshirn has no certification, but was going beyond his duties as building “coordinator” and “projects himself as the person running and administering each of these building departments.”

However, Hanshaw, the executive secretary of the state board, said, “The board is not out to remove any one person.”

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.