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Hernando dredging contractor has arson conviction

BROOKSVILLE — The construction manager that Hernando County hired to oversee the Hernando Beach channel dredge has a criminal conviction in New York and new questions have arisen about his qualifications.

Those issues may cost him his job.

Greg Jarque of Gritz Development and Construction was given a contract by the Hernando County Commission this week, even after questions came up regarding his qualifications to oversee the long-delayed dredge project. The majority of commissioners approved the $152,500 contract with hopes that Jarque's recent history of bringing another local construction project in early and under budget could be repeated on the dredge.

But additional questions arose concerning Jarque's past. On Thursday, he wrote an apology to the county regarding his conviction on a charge of attempted arson in Suffolk County, N.Y., more than 15 years ago. Further details about the charge were unavailable Thursday evening.

"I apologize to anyone who may feel that I have let them down, including the county staff and the majority of commissioners who have given me their vote of confidence,'' Jarque wrote.

"Just as important, I apologize to my many friends in our community who have learned to trust me as a reputable businessman and tireless volunteer. I assure them their trust has not been misplaced. I will continue to do my best to bring this very important project to a successful completion for the taxpayers of Hernando County.''

County Administrator David Hamilton said the information didn't come to light as county staffers conducted a background check on Jarque, who has been an active community member, a director for the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce and owner of a business at the airport, Omni Circuits International.

Hamilton said that the background investigation was inadequate and "even under emergency circumstances, we have to tighten up the process, if we ever do emergency circumstances again.''

The County Commission waived standard purchasing rules for the dredge because the county is under a tight deadline to complete the work.

Hamilton said he is also concerned about a troubling misrepresentation regarding Jarque.

During Tuesday's meeting as commissioners were discussing Jarque's background, Commissioner Dave Russell defended Jarque's lack of dredging experience by saying that, as a general contractor, his license qualified him to work on any construction project from skyscrapers to dredges.

Jarque never corrected Russell. Jarque's building contractor license qualifies him to work on buildings up to three stories, according to the state licensing board. That circumstance would have been the perfect time for Jarque to clarify his license, Hamilton said.

"This raises some serious issues about his future involvement in the process,'' he said.

The latest problems will be the subject of a discussion between Hamilton and Jarque early this morning. Hamilton said he would comment about the situation after the meeting.

Hernando dredging contractor has arson conviction 04/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, April 14, 2011 11:10pm]
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