Our taxes pay their salaries. In return, city building inspectors perform the important task of making sure our homes, schools, stores, and other structures are safe.
Mike Rush, KSDK 11:06 p.m. CST November 12, 2014
Ellisville inspector approves dangerous deck.(Photo: KSDK)
285 CONNECT 6 TWEET](https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=http%3A//on.ksdk.com/1qEMMnt&text=Ellisville%20inspector%20approves%20dangerous%20deck&via=ksdknews)LINKEDIN 11 COMMENTEMAILMORE
ELLISVILLE, Mo. - Our taxes pay their salaries. In return, city building inspectors perform the important task of making sure our homes, schools, stores, and other structures are safe.
But a local couple says an inspector passed their project, even though it was dangerous. They wonder how many others are out there. 5 on Your Side’s Mike Rush has the story.
Armed with tools, plenty of notes, even videos, Carl Tebeau, a retired St. Louis City Police detective, is taking on his deck problem like he would a crime.
“We handled it like a case, we just gathered the evidence,” Tebeau said.
That evidence included video that showed the deck swaying back and forth. The former investigator, along with his friend, Paula, saved for years to build the $18,000 composite deck, started taking a closer look.
“The beams are not resting on the posts, the stairs sag, there has to be a certain amount of clearance between that landing and the deck,” Tebeau said. “There are code violations all over this deck.”
Crowden Home Improvement did the work, but Tebeau says it was really the city inspector who failed him.
“Ellisville kind of gave him a get out of jail free card,” Tebeau said.
Gene Kunzie is Ellisville’s building inspector. He inspected the deck at least twice last summer never mentioning any problems, Tebeau says, before signing the permit and approving the faulty structure.
“Ellisville made it possible for them to get away with this,” said Tebeau. “You know, had they said wait a minute, this is a code violation, it has to be repaired, they would have had to do it and if they couldn’t find somebody who could.”
After Tebeau’s complaints, Kunzie re-inspected and sent a letter to the contractor with a list of needed repairs. Then he sent Tebeau an email stating that because of Tebeau’s concerns and the swaying that: “It may be better to limit or restrict use of the deck.”
“We were warned by the inspector, after he passed it, not to use it,” Tebeau said.
The deck owners paid for independent inspections, from a construction company and an engineer. In one report, the engineer wrote ‘the most inexperienced eye’ should notice the structure is crooked and it ‘should not have been approved by the building inspector.’
“So the deck’s not safe?,” Mike Rush asked.
“No, not at this point,” Bill Schwer said.
Bill Schwer serves as Ellisville’s City Manager and City Engineer. He’s Kunzie’s boss. He agrees mistakes were made, but stands behind Kunzie’s work.
“Our code official is one of the best I’ve seen,” Schwer said. “I have every confidence in him.”
Kunzie’s reach is far. He performs around 1,000 inspections a year including houses, businesses and apartments. Schwer says in the nine years the inspector has been with the city, the deck is the only complaint.
“Mistakes happen unfortunately, but we made it right, we went back,” said Schwer.
“This seems like a big mistake though?” said Rush.
“We re-inspected it,” said Schwer.
“Only at their request though?” Rush said.
“Well, sure. How else would we know though, Mike, seriously, I mean. Our inspector missed it,” Schwer said. “We were made aware, we came back, we wrote a letter to the contractor and explained to them that they were going to have to get an engineer to review it.”
Crowden would make the repairs, but the couple has no faith in Crowden and won’t let them come back. So, more than a year after Kunzie approved it, the dangerous deck sits unchanged, while Kunzie’s situation has changed. Months after the admitted bungling of the inspection, Kunzie’s duties were increased and he received a 15 percent raise, bringing his salary to nearly $70,000.
“The citizens, the citizens. I mean not only do they suffer monetarily but potentially they could be injured or killed,” Tebeau said.
Keith Crowden, who built the deck, admits there were issues with the construction. Although his company is no longer in business, he says he would be willing to make repairs if the couple would let him.
If you have an issue you’d like 5 on Your Side to look into, give Mike Rush a call or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org