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A Hummel Report Investigation

Permit Me

He is the president of the Fall River Firefighters union and owner of a home construction company. Michael Coogan is also running for the Massachusetts Senate seat in Fall River. But Coogan is facing questions - and an investigation by the state of  Rhode Island - about a construction job  his company did in Barrington last year.  Find out why as Jim Hummel talks with the candidate about it this week.

 

SCRIPT

For the first time in more than two decades Fall River will have a new state senator come January, as Joan Menard is giving up  her seat representing 1st Bristol and Plymouth counties.

The open seat has resulted in a four-way Democratic primary that includes Michael Coogan, a 22-year veteran of the Fall River Fire Department and president of its union.

Coogan also owns a home building and remodeling company. Last year his company took on an extensive renovation project at a home in Barrington.

Angelo: ``The kitchen, the half bath, the dining room, repainting, re-carpeting even a portion of the upstairs.''

John Angelo, a Fall River attorney, knew Coogan because he had done a good job on a project at his mother's home a couple of years earlier. So Angelo hired him to come to his own home Barrington.

But shortly after the job began Angelo saw problems, including a bathroom renovation that left the floor unlevel and a botched plumbing job on the vanity.

Hummel: As the problems mounted Angelo eventually fired Coogan. Angelo's new contractor came here to Barrington Town Hall to pull the required permits and to see what Coogan had on file with the town's building inspector.

Angelo: ``And then then he called me and said there was no permit on file,  which I  was a bit surprised at.''

That's because Coogan's bid included a line item for building permits.

Angelo: ``He did invoice me and showed a breakdown of the quote including all the  charges, and itemized in that was an $800 charge for permit fees.''

Hummel: ``$800?''

Angelo: $800.''

Hummel: ``For permits that he did not pull.''

Angelo: ``That's correct.''

Angelo did some more digging and discovered Coogan was not registered with the state Contractor's Registration Board, as required by Rhode Island law.

So we caught up with Coogan - who has made transparency in government a cornerstone of his campaign - at a campaign fundraiser in Fall River last week to get his side of the story.
First question: where his construction company does business.

Coogan:  ``Mostly Massachusetts, very limited exposure in Rhode Island.''

Hummel: ``So do you do any work in Rhode Island?''

Coogan: ``Myself?  No.''

Hummel: ``But your company?''

Coogan:  ``No, the company...the corporation you're talking about?''

Hummel: ``Yeah.''

Coogan: ``Yeah.''

Hummel: ``He owns the company, he  dealt with you on all of the bidding. It's his responsibility.''

Angelo: ``Absolutely. I mean when we put it out to bid back in the  end of  2008 he submitted a quote, mailed it to our home, with the company letterhead - both on the letter and  on the envelope - and presented it as his company.''

Hummel:  ``And I'm curious as to why you would be doing work in Rhode Island if you weren't registered with the contractor's board there?''

Coogan:  ``Right, well I'm not doing any work. Just so you understand, a homeowner is free to pull their permit and hire whoever they want. So in Rhode Island, a homeowner can pull their own permit and hire whoever they want to do work.''

Hummel: ``No, you have to come in - when they hire a contractor, you know the law in Rhode Island, in order to hire and to be able to come and do somebody's work you have to be registered with the state of Rhode Island. Are you aware of that?''

Coogan: ``No, you have to...you have to have...the homeowner is not liable to the same thing as a contractor.''

Hummel: ``No,  obviously, but if you're a contractor  doing business as a corporation and you want to do work on somebody's house in Rhode Island, you have to be registered with the contractor's board. And you were at one point.''

Coogan:  ``I was, yes, years ago.  Yup.''

Hummel: ``But you let that lapse.''

Coogan: ``I did.''

Hummel: ``Alright, and why was that?''

Coogan: ``Because I wasn't doing enough work to justify the expense of the license.''

Hummel: ``$200 every two years?''

Coogan:  ``Yeah.''

Hummel: ``But you did work in Rhode Island a year ago on a house.''

Coogan: ``I did  not.''

Hummel: ``You did not.''

Coogan: ``I did not.''

Hummel: ``You didn't do any work on John Angelo's house? In Barrington?''

Coogan: ``I did not.''

Hummel: ``You met with him, though, and you contracted with him, right?''

Coogan: ``I did not.''

Hummel: ``You had no contact with Mr. Angelo about his  house?''

Coogan: ``I know who Mr. Angelo is, absolutely.''

Angelo: ``I showed him the photos then I asked him, `What about the fact there is no permit?'

And he just shrugged his shoulders and did not reply to that.''

Hummel:  ``Didn't say anything.''

Angelo:  ``Didn't say anything.''

Hummel: ``And how did you interpret that?''

Angelo: ``That he didn't file a permit. I'm realizing that's the reason why he didn't file any permit because he had no license to do any work in Rhode Island.''

Hummel: ``So you're saying you didn't do any work for him.''

Coogan: ``I did  not.''

Hummel: ``You personally.''

Coogan: ``Absolutely.''

Hummel: ``So you think that allows your corporation not to have to take out the proper licensing?''

Coogan: ``You know, Jim, the funny thing is, when you came here and you said you were going to talk about the race and now you're talking about something that's totally different...you know, I think it needs to get itself worked out. And I don't know why you felt it was appropriate to come here.''

Hummel: ``You're running for office, are you not?''

Coogan: ``I am.''

Hummel: ``And you have a contractor's business. Your life is open, is it not, to answer any questions about politics, your personal life or your business?''

Coogan: ``Jim, what I'm saying is, I'm here at an event, having a fundraiser for my campaign, and if you want to talk I'd be happy to talk again. That's not a problem. But right  now I don't think we're going to get into this on the street here in Fall River.''

Hummel: ``You don't want to answer the question the about...''

Coogan: ``No, I just said to you I'd be happy to talk to you - that's  not a problem.''
So we left our contact information, then followed up the next day.

Coogan still has not called us back.

John Angelo says what happened goes beyond a homeowner-contractor dispute now that Coogan is asking voters to represent  them on Beacon Hill.

Angelo: ``To me that speaks volumes regarding his integrity as to addressing concerns and accountability. He took advantage of the trust that I put in him.''

In Fall River, Jim Hummel, for The Hummel Report.

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