Asheville area's best and worst contractors of 2008
by Mike Walker and Staci Giordullo
In addition to our nationwide list, here are the Asheville contractors who have earned the distinction of being the best or worst in the Asheville area.
Harrington Electric Inc.
After years of teaching English in Tampa Bay, Fla., Rick Harrington moved to North Carolina and became an electrician, a trade he learned 25 years ago by working with his father who was an electrician. ”When I moved, there was so much red tape to get back into teaching,” he says.
Nonetheless, Harrington says the teaching experience helped shape him. “It helped me learn to communicate well,” he says. Customers such as Sean Dennis of Hendersonville, say good communication is just part of the overall experience. When Dennis hired Harrington to install dryer and washer outlets, Harrington went out of the way to fix a dangerous circuit. “He doesn’t act like he’s in a hurry, and he does a good job,” Dennis says.
Other Angie’s List members agree Harrington goes above and beyond the call of duty, which helped him earn 11 “A”-rated reports. Martha Fullington of Arden couldn’t believe the additional research Harrington did in regards to her 30-year-old electrical panel. “Rick sent me websites about the dangers and safety regarding the breaker panels from the mid-1970s,” she says. “He said he wasn’t trying to be an alarmist, but thought I should know some of the concerns. I decided to have the panel replaced.”
Harrington says the secret to his success is simply putting customer satisfaction first — even if it cuts into his profit. “Every customer is important, no matter how small the job,” he says. “And you’ve got to give people fair prices. If you’re willing to sometimes take a hit, you’re going to alleviate so many problems. But if you’d rather argue about $50, you’re going to be arguing all the time.”
According to the Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office, Donald Howard Franklin Jr. of Asheville has a history of financial crimes, most of which stem from embezzlement cases where he stole money from his employers.
But this past year, Franklin, who has an “F” rating on Angie’s List, apparently turned his attention to homeowners. In April, he pleaded guilty to six felonies — including obtaining property through false pretenses — for defrauding a homeowner out of more than $200,000. Assistant District Attorney Pat Patton says Franklin took money from Richard Pigossi, who at the time lived in Southeast Asia, and never completed an addition to his Biltmore Forest home. “He held himself out to be a general contractor, and apparently he wasn’t even licensed,” Patton says. “He forged the homeowner’s name to get permits.”
After Pigossi gave Franklin money for supplies and construction, Franklin fled to Texas. Pigossi was shocked. “I met him with my architect and spent time with him and interviewed him,” he says. “He wasn’t the person I thought he was. He had even given me recommendations.”
Asheville police officer Mark Allen says they found Franklin with a little help. “His ex-wife called and told me where he was because he wasn’t paying child support,” he says. “And he was on probation the whole time he was doing this.”
An Angie’s List member reported a similar experience with Property Perfected when she hired them to build her home last year. She says he never finished the work. “He left with our money,” says the member, who didn’t return calls requesting permission to use her name. Because Franklin never had a license, it’s unclear how many homeowners he defrauded, Patton says.
Franklin accepted a plea bargain for the felonies and was sentenced to 15 to 18 months in jail followed by a five-year probation. He also has to pay $516,889 in restitution.
“It has been a traumatizing experience for us, so we want to put it behind us and move forward,” Pigossi says. “It has not been enjoyable, and he is where he should be right now.”