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Under fire, contractor applies to work with city

Frank Edmund Donofrio, above, works under Guido Nardi’s license.

Frank Edmund Donofrio, above, works under Guido Nardi’s license.

A Seminole contractor who recently applied to the city of St. Petersburg to rehabilitate the homes of low-income residents is in trouble with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Guido J. Nardi, president of N&B Construction, could lose his contractor's license and face other penalties.

Nardi and business associate Frank Edmund Donofrio, who has a history of legal problems connected to construction work, applied to get on a list of qualified contractors with St. Petersburg's department of housing and community development.

N&B Construction, for which Donofrio is listed as a director, also submitted a proposal to repair a Midtown home for $50,683.

Recently, though, the city revised its procedures and began requiring prospective contractors and their principals to complete a questionnaire detailing lawsuits, complaints, arrests and other problems. Tom DeYampert, manager of housing, community and development, said there was a reason for the change.

"When the market was very strong and the construction market was strong, we had basically the same set of contractors that have been working with us for years,'' he said.

The economic downturn, though, is bringing in a whole new set of contractors interested in working with the rehabilitation program that is funded with money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the state, DeYampert said.

"In the environment that we have today, we want to provide the home- owners with as much information about the people who are going to be in their homes and the companies they're going to be hiring,'' he said.

Nardi's problems with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation arose from his company's dealings with a Tampa man, William Pinciaro, and his mother, Sally Pinciaro, for the construction of an addition to the woman's home. Nardi's firm signed a contract with William Pinciaro for the addition, the department stated in an Aug. 6 administrative complaint.

The price for the project was $43,640, with N&B Construction accepting approximately $10,000 to begin the job, the complaint said. Besides other issues, the company did not obtain a permit before beginning the project, it said. A few months later, the complaint added, N&B Construction filed a lien against the Pinciaro property for unpaid services in the amount of $39,700.

In one of five counts, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation also alleges that Nardi's company, which has a Seminole address, committed "mismanagement or misconduct in the practice of contracting that causes financial harm to the customer.''

The department is asking the construction industry licensing board to impose one or more penalties that could include reprimanding Nardi, revoking his license, requiring financial restitution to the Pinciaros or imposing a fine of up to $10,000 per violation.

Asked about the complaint Friday, Nardi, 57, said the matter had been resolved.

Alexis Antonacci, spokeswoman for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, said the case remains open.

"In this case, he did dispute the facts and requested an informal hearing,'' she said.

"Right now, we are in the process of getting the case ready for trial and it will take place in the next few months.''

Frank Edmund Donofrio

Donofrio, 42, also has had trouble with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Last year he pleaded no contest to a charge of grand theft in a transaction with a St. Petersburg woman and agreed to pay $13,200 in restitution.

In an affidavit seeking a warrant for his arrest on the grand theft charge, an investigator for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation said the woman, Maggie Reid, thought she had signed a contract to renovate her house at 1630 22nd Ave. S in St. Petersburg with a man named Francis Swanton.

According to the investigator, Reid later realized that the transaction had actually been made with Donofrio. Further, Swanton said he had not given Donofrio permission to use his letterhead. Reid refinanced her home for the renovation, but according to the investigator, the more than $18,000 she paid Donofrio got her a minimum amount of work.

Last year, Donofrio was arrested in Tampa and convicted of grand theft. He also was charged with acting in the capacity of a contractor without a license. According to documents, the prosecutor decided not to proceed with the license case.

Donofrio and N&B Construction also were sued by the Pinciaros. Sally Pinciaro said they dropped the suit in return for the lien's being lifted from the Tampa property.

Additionally, about two years ago, almost a dozen Pinellas County residents sued Donofrio, alleging improper work. They also claimed that he set them up with high-interest loans. Some have since agreed to undisclosed financial settlements. Three families have not settled. A few days ago, their lawyer filed a motion seeking sanctions against the company under which Donofrio was doing business at the time, Five Star Remodeling Consultants.

"We are asking the court to set a trial date,'' said Gary Cors, the Clearwater lawyer.

Ties to Nardi

Now Donofrio works under Nardi's contractor's license. Donofrio lives in Seminole and Nardi in Spring Hill.

DeYampert, who is in charge of the city's WIN program, under which homeowners can get no-interest rehabilitation loans for up to $60,000, said he was surprised to learn of Donofrio's attempt to do work under the city's list of qualified contractors.

"But I can tell you, at the present time, he operates through a contractor that holds a contractor's license and has the necessary workers' compensation and the general liability to pull permits and work under the laws of Florida in the city of St. Petersburg,'' DeYampert said.

Further, he said, the city does not recommend whom homeowners should pick to repair their homes. The city's job is to make sure that contractors have a valid license and, with the introduction of the new questionnaire, that homeowners know about their background.

N&B did not fill out the questionnaire.

"We're not pursuing this right now,'' Nardi said.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this article. Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283.

>>fast facts

Tips for hiring a contractor

• Get references and follow up on them.

• Examine past work.

• Talk to other customers. Find out if the contractor did what was in the contract, if there were problems and whether the work was corrected properly.

• Check licenses with the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board at (727) 536-4720.

For help through the city WIN program

To find out about home rehabilitation through the WIN program, call the city of St. Petersburg at (727) 893-7247.

Source: Tom DeYampert, manager of housing, community and development, St. Petersburg

Under fire, contractor applies to work with city 08/23/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 25, 2008 5:27pm]
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