Wash Family Construction reaches settlement with city

Anna Maria Wash Settlement House
The alleged FEMA violations came to light during legal actions filed as result of work done on this vacation rental in Anna Maria. - Kristin Swain | Sun

ANNA MARIA – Wash Family Construction owner Darrin Wash and the city of Anna Maria have agreed to a settlement that exceeds $56,000 for permitting fees and additional expenses owed to the city.

City commissioners authorized the settlement agreement on Thursday, Nov. 29.

“The city recently became aware that the contractor had submitted certain applications for building permits which understated the amount of the cost of the proposed construction in both FEMA-related and non-FEMA related residential properties through the use of ‘double contracts,’ and as a result the city began proceedings against the contractor to be held before the city’s Local Construction Regulation Board (LCRB),” the settlement agreement states.

The settlement negates the need for Wash to appear before the regulation board that consists of three Planning and Zoning Board members, who in that capacity have the authority to prohibit Wash and his company from obtaining city-issued permits.

According to a spreadsheet included in the meeting packet, Wash Family Construction, between 2012 and 2017, requested city-issued permits for 20 projects with a total stated contract value of $2.6 million. The actual value of the contracts was $5.09 million. This produced $2.48 million discrepancy between the stated contract values and the actual contract values, and the company now owes the city $49,696 in additional permitting fees.

Wash is required to pay the city $4,139 per month until that balance is paid off. If a payment is missed, the remaining balance becomes due in full and a regulation board hearing will be scheduled.

The settlement agreement also requires Wash to pay $2,100 for services provided by building official Luke Curtis, $4,500 for services provided by City Attorney Becky Vose and $124 to reimburse Vose for a plane ticket.

Wash also agrees to be shadowed for one year at his expense by a contractor of the city’s choice, who will have full access to financial matters and documents related to his permitting requests in Anna Maria.

The settlement agreement requires Wash to issue a public admission/apology to the city regarding the misuse of double contracts and a promise that the contractor will never again make inaccurate statements regarding construction costs.

The settlement agreement states the contractor admitted wrongdoing regarding the understated contracts and that neither the city or any city officials were aware of or complicit in the “misdeeds and bad actions of the contractor.”

These matters stem from a 2016 lawsuit in which Wash claimed Martin and Threse Hurbi owed his company $94,208 for renovations made to their single-story vacation rental at 759 North Shore Drive. Wash sought a lien on the property and requested it be sold to pay for the work.

The Hurbis’ attorney filed a counterclaim alleging the couple was charged for work not performed, overcharged for work performed, charged for materials not delivered and that some work was defective. An amended counterclaim filed in April 2017 alleged Wash committed FEMA fraud.

The city became aware of the FEMA fraud allegations last August.

Eighteen of the 20 projects listed in the settlement spreadsheet were subject to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) 50 percent substantial improvement rule. The rule states that if the cost of improvements or repairs exceeds 50 percent of the market value of the building, it must be brought up to current floodplain management standards.

After leaving the commission chambers, Wash said, “I’m thankful for Anna Maria letting me do this.”