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Unreliable Building Inspectors Present Construction Safety Risk in California

Posted on October 14th, 2011

This month, California Watch focused on a serious construction defect and safety problem in California that has long gone under the radar. Unaware of the risks, school districts have hired unreliable building inspectors to supervise massive reconstruction and renovation work. These inspectors have overlooked construction defects, and in the absence of any strong laws that mandate punishment for errant inspectors, have been able to go scot free.

The California Watch report has a number of instances in which school districts have hired building inspectors with dubious records. For instance, the Rancho Santa Fe School District hired Richard Vale, a building inspector with a felony conviction in a construction safety case to his credit. The School District knew nothing thing about this conviction, and hired him to inspect the reconstruction of an elementary and middle school in the district. The Division of the State Architect, which should’ve known better, behaved even more recklessly, approving him to inspect public school and college projects without any background checks. In 2007, he was approved to inspect the construction of the gym, pool and other facilities at a Riverside County college. Besides this, he also supervised the construction of other school renovation projects across California, estimated at millions of dollars.

According to California Watch, there have been at least 300 building instructors in California who been cited for work-related efficiencies. However, Los Angeles construction defect lawyers have found it very mysterious that most of them have been allowed to continue monitoring school construction projects. The shoddiness of the work of these inspectors was extreme. Some of them have overlooked unsafe wiring and defective steel frames. Others missed out construction defects that only came to light later after inspections by state engineers.

Part of the problem has been that the Division of the State Architect has been unwilling to discipline errant inspectors. Inspectors face few penalties for their actions. Over the past three years, there’s been only one case in which a building inspector had his license revoked.