Monday, December 5, 2016


THE FIRE AT THE METRO CENTER TELLS THE STORY OF LIMITED RESOURCES IN JOURNALISM IN SMALL COMMUNITIES, AND THE LACK OF TRAINING IN JOURNALIST OR BLOGGERS IN COVERING A STORY

This is not targeted to anyone,  The point is to explain why sometimes getting the full story is not possible because of expense or being a one man show.  Our community is too small to allow for the full development of this story.  So the point of this post is, sometimes good stories are not fully developed because of a lack of resources and local expertise.

Montoya did a great job in getting out the Fire Department Report which showed a code violation on the electrical box as metal was the source of the fire.  This is where the story begins, and unfortunately will end because of a lack of resources to fully develop it.

UNDERSTANDING INSPECTIONS AND CONSTRUCTION LAW

No one in any professional can understand everything.  It is that simple.  This story requires the expenditure of possibly hundreds of dollars in open records requests, and someone who understands code enforcement and construction law to get to the truth of the matter.

What we know for sure is, the city inspector either did not know the code when they provided a green tag clearing the box, or they issued a red tag rejecting the box and then never followed up.

It could be hundreds of pages doing an open records request on all green and red tags issued during the inspection of this project.  This is important to get to the facts.

CONSTRUCTION LAW

A simple example - one time we sued the primary contractor on a building for the death of a worker who worked for a subcontractor.  The developer required that the primary contractor be bonded, and that all subcontractors be bonded.  The negligent party was a subcontractor for whom the worker did not work.  He was walking by some scaffolding when it collapsed with bricks and crushed him to death.

So his employer who was self insured for workers comp purposes was free and clear.  So who do you sue?  The subcontractor liable for the collapsing scaffolding was not sufficiently bonded for a wrongful death.  This violated the terms of the original contract between the developer and the primary contractor. Well based on construction law, and the contract between the developer and the primary contractor both may have had liability.  

What we do not know, and will not know unless the city releases its own findings is, what were the terms of the contract between the city and the primary contractor.  Now because this was funded in part by federal funds, we have another problem.

WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW IS

Who did the design on this part of the building?.  There were several firms.  What does the original design show? a metal box or outside weather resistant box?  If the design was proper who was responsible for installing the box?  Did the city do a proper inspection, and if so did the subcontractor simply ignore the red tag.  The report posted by Montoya shows at least one of the builders ignored a red tag, and the red tag remained on the fire alarm system long after it was issued.  This one simple reality may void the city's insurance coverage.  The city cannot be a negligent party and then file an insurance claim.

THE STORY IS IMPORTANT BUT A LACK OF RESOURCES AND EXPERTISE BY THE HERALD AND THE BLOGS MAKE GETTING TO THE TRUTH IMPOSSIBLE

Further, until the city determines it had no liability in the fire it will probably refuse to release any key documents for review.    The good news for the truth is, insurance companies do not just pay claims.  Construction law is going to force a delay in determining liability.  Once liability is determined or presumed, the insurance company will pull all of the relevant records, and point the finger.

I am not blaming anyone for the inability of the Herald or the blogs to fully develop this story.  I can handled the construction law side of the investigation and read blue prints.  But I will not spend hundreds or possibly thousand of dollars on open records requests to then spend weeks going over everything.  And besides the city is going to stonewall me

WHAT WE NEED TO DO

We need to hold Debbie Portillo, John Villarreal, and Rose Gowen's feet to the fire to release as much information as legally possible. They will not.  The truth about liability needs to come out before the election and this is a  great election issue.

CONSTRUCTION COVER-UPS ARE NORMAL

I have never told this story before because the key players at the VFW would have known my source was my late brother in law. As a well respected mason who did a lot of the restoration work for the city and private investors in downtown, his best work being the Cueto building, was on the construction committee for the VFW. One day he noticed the amount of cement being used for the VFW was reduced significantly. He knew this would cause problems in the long run. He also noticed the cost of construction remained the same. When he and others asked, the construction committee was thereafter kept out of the loop. My brother in law died nearly a year ago, so they can take no action against him now. Many at the VFW were concerned, but the strong hands of those in charge put fear in those who knew truth. If the city inspectors were doing their job this would not be possible.

WE HAVE TO GET TO THE TRUTH

If Portillo, Villarreal, and Gowen are unwilling to take the lead in getting to the truth, all the more reason to get rid of them.  This is a perfect example of elected officials not doing their job.

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