Lowcountry contractor fined same amount for operating without a license twice
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Before several customers hired a contractor in Dorchester County, the state had ordered him to cease and desist twice for operating without a license.
Both times, within a four-year period, cost just $500 each time.
When asked if the second fine was enough to discourage Ronald Brent Ergle from operating without a license, Chairman of the Labor, Commerce and Industry Senate Committee State Senator Tom Davis stated that it was “probably not.”
Ergle is accused by several customers of failing to complete the work he was hired to do or completing improperly, as revealed in a recent investigation.
Three have filed suit in Dorchester and Charleston counties in the last two months.
“I think it’s fair that in the first instance if there is a fine it may be for reasons that the contractor was unaware of, didn’t know there was paperwork, didn’t file something. Okay, so relatively modest administrative penalty at that level,” he said. “But if you’ve got recidivism, somebody who’s doing it over and over again, clearly there ought to be a graduated level of penalties.”
Davis became chairman about a year ago and says he’s been reviewing state code to ensure that the level of regulations, and subsequent fines “are appropriate.”
According to state law, there is a maximum penalty of $500 for a first offense, but no listed penalties for future offenses.
That is decided by the Residential Builders Commission, through the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation department.
Davis explains that there are three levels of regulation: administrative, criminal and civil.
Other contractors accused of taking advantage of their customers by not completing the work they’ve been hired and paid to do have faced criminal charges, such as Travis Tardiff of Tardiff builders and most recently Thomas Wayne Riley of Lowcountry Fiberglass Pools.
But in this case, at least two customers who hired Ergle claim they’ve reached out to the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office to file a police report, but were told since work had began they could not.
Their only recourse, they’ve been told, is through civil litigation.
Ergle filed for Bankruptcy earlier this year and customers’ expectations for a refund are low.
“There’s nothing that will ever make him pay in South Carolina. And there’s no criminal penalties for it. Why?” customer Lynn Mizzell said.” I can’t go [to] a gas station and take $40,000 out of their cash register and expect to get away with it. Why is it legal to do it to another person?”
“My experience has been the courts are so overloaded, solicitors are so overloaded, law enforcement is so overloaded with crimes and other things, that these sort of white-collar, non-violent crimes tend to be pushed to the side,” Davis said.
Ergle has claimed that he was just behind on his projects.
Dorchester County is also now encouraging anyone who may have hired him to contact their Building Services Department either in person or via phone at (843) 832-0011.
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