By Mary O’KEEFE
Former Glendale City Councilmember John Drayman received notification that National Fire Systems and Services of Glendale has placed a mechanic’s lien just shy of $100,000 on his Montrose condominium.
A mechanic’s lien is placed on a property by a contractor, sub-contractor or supplier who has not been paid.
National Fire had been hired by Drayman to remodel his condo after a water pipe had busted within the common walls of his complex. The homeowners association’s insurance was responsible for the common areas of damage, which was extensive according to Drayman.
During this time Drayman said he decided to take the opportunity to remodel his condo, which was originally built in the 1930s. He contacted a family friend and long time Montrose resident Khachik Zargarian for advice on who to use for the remodeling.
“K suggested National Fire Systems,” Drayman said in an earlier interview.
Drayman found that the company had done some work for the city prior to him being elected to office. The one caveat that was required was whatever company Zargarian suggested had to be willing to work on a payment plan. Fire Systems agreed and the work began.
All seemed like a normal remodeling/repair job until divorce proceedings began between Advanced Development and Investment, Inc.’s president Salim Karimi and Jannki Mithaiwala, the company founder’s daughter. The divorce brought to light some inconsistencies in billing that led to a reported investigation into ADI.
Zargarian worked for ADI and National Fire Systems and Services had worked as a subcontractor. ADI, it is alleged, committed fraud by overcharging the city of Glendale, as well as other cities, for work done on low income housing. A judge appointed a receiver, David Pasternak, who began to investigate ADI’s business practices. The ADI couple has since called off their divorce.
“ADI is no longer in receivership,” Pasternak said.
Before the couple withdrew their divorce complaint, Pasternak had found information concerning the company’s billing practices.
“We have documented $134 million collected [allegedly] through over billing for 43 of 55 projects; part of those were in Glendale,” Pasternak said.
He added he is certain the figure will go higher with further investigation.
In the midst of this revelation were Drayman, his condo remodel and connection to subcontractors with ADI. Fire System has worked for ADI as well as other companies.
“We have been in business for 20 years. We have clients; ADI was one of our major ones but not our only one,” said Mike Thomassian, owner of National Fire Systems and Service.
During Drayman’s run for reelection to the Glendale City Council accusations of favors from those contractors who worked with ADI on projects began to fly. Pictures of Drayman’s condo remodel were brought to city council meetings with more accusations from some of favoritism and corruption. The exact corruption was not specified nor proven though there were legitimate reports of permits being taken out after work either started or was completed.
The original price for his remodel was quoted for just under $100,000, Drayman said.
He added he had given National Fire several checks that were to be deposited at specific times until he was able to acquire a loan, which he did after some time.
The problem between the contractor and the customer seemed to come some time after the work was completed.
“I had paid them [over] $100,000 and there was a remaining amount of about $98,000 left. I had previously disputed about $50,000 or more of that. [A] National [representative] said we would work this out. It was about $30,000 that was remaining,” Drayman said.
“Yes we had tried to speak to him [about the money owed],” Thomassian said.
Drayman said he had a conversation with National Fire’s lawyer and was told the lawyer would go back and speak to his client.
“Then I got a notice they had recorded a mechanic’s lien,” Drayman said.
Thomassian said his company began to work with Drayman but then the checks that had been given as payment to the company were returned.
Drayman said National Fire knew that was going to happen because he had told them he was putting a stop payment on the checks after he paid the portion of the bill he had not disputed.
Addressing that increase of almost double the original estimate, Thomassian contends the client approved the improvements and changes that were more costly. Drayman said he knew of some improvements but not that those would increase the bill to what it is at present.
It is up to lawyers and possibly the court as to whether the improvements were made with approval by the client.
“It went far over [the original estimate]. We were continuously in touch with [Drayman]. There were a lot of changes,” Thomassian said.
There is also a question as to whether National Fire Systems had the proper license to do the job before they began the construction.
Thomassian said his company had done remodeling jobs in the past, citing Rustica Cucina in Montrose as one of his clients. However he did add the company did not have the correct license until after the work was completed. The license he had – an HIC [Home Improvement Certification] – was a classification of license repealed in January 2004.
Another issue with National Fire System will have to take into account is the amount of time that has lapsed between completion of the work, September 2010, and the filing of the lien. State regulations require liens be filed within 90 days of completion of the work.