The fines and lawsuits leveled against a Roseburg builder keep piling up, while frustrated buyers, including many seniors who put much of their life’s savings into buying a home from them, remain in limbo.
The most recent complaint, filed against Mid Oregon Builders co-owner Joseph Russi, seeks $535,000 for debts Russi promised to pay but never did, according to court records.
The complaint was filed by the company Vale LLC on May 5 in Douglas County Circuit Court. The complaint centers around a “confession of judgement” that Russi entered into the record in June 2020, also in Douglas County Circuit Court. In that document, Russi acknowledged that he owed Vale LLC $535,000, plus interest and attorney fees, and promised to pay it back.
The document, signed by Russi, also said in part: “I make this statement based upon my personal knowledge. I am competent to testify to the matters state herein. For the purpose of this confession, I authorize the entry of a judgement, pursuant to the terms set forth below, against me in a court of competent jurisdiction…The amounts confessed are justly and presently due.”
Mid Oregon Builders has been sued by individuals and companies, cited by the state and fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for a host of violations, and had work halted on all 85 of its homes in Douglas County for a variety of reasons.
The company is owned by Russi, Dave Duncan and Shea Cambridge. Duncan said Mid Oregon Builders is in the process of selling all of the homes in question to a man named Jeremy Parmenter, who is principal broker at Real Estate Performance Group in Eugene. He is also a licensed contractor. Parmenter did not return phone calls and emails seeking comment for this story.
Duncan said the change of ownership of the homes has been a long, drawn out process.
“I thought it was supposed to go last November for sure, but it’s taken longer than anyone of us thought,” he said.
Duncan also said that Russi is dealing with a serious illness in his family and would not comment on his financial problems.
In an interview earlier this year, Duncan said the company ran into financial problems back in the spring of 2020, when a lender cut off their line of credit due to COVID-19.
“When that happened it put us in a cash flow crunch,” Duncan said.
Because of that, Mid Oregon Builders was forced to shut down work on about three dozen houses in the area, he said.
Then last summer, Russi filed for personal bankruptcy. That put a further crimp on the company’s finances, and Mid Oregon Builders lost its contractors insurance, Duncan said. With its insurance gone, Douglas County building officials stopped Mid Oregon Builders’ work on all 85 of its houses under construction in Sutherlin, Winston and Roseburg.
POSSIBLE CHARGES?That left dozens of homeowners in limbo. Kelley Crump is one of them. She contracted with Mid Oregon Builders to have a home built in Sutherlin and moved in a little more than a year ago. Since then it’s been a nightmare, she said. The work is “shoddy” and not up to code and she is worried her deck, which sits on an embankment, is unsafe, she said.
“For what we paid for our home, the work was atrocious,” Crump said. “And we’re not alone. There are people from Myrtle Creek to Sutherlin that have been victims of this company.”
Crump said she wanted to hire a lawyer, along with about two dozen other Mid Oregon Builders home buyers. But they were told hiring an attorney would be expensive — as much as $40,000 — and it was unlikely they would ever see their money again because the company is broke, she said.
In addition to having its homes red-tagged, Mid Oregon Builders LLC had been sued several times for nonpayment before the Vase LLC complaint, according to state court records.
According to one complaint filed in December, Mid Oregon Builders bought nearly $80,000 worth of materials on credit and never paid for it. The complaint was filed by American Builders & Contractors Supply Co., Inc., which does business as ABC Supply Co., Inc. ABC Supply Co. has locations in Portland, Beaverton and Eugene.
Mid Oregon Builders also ran into problems with the state over its lax worker safety protocols — which resulted in yet more debt for the company.
Mid Oregon Builders had a history of failing to implement adequate fall protection systems and exposing workers to potentially dangerous falls, resulting in more than $120,000 in fines, according to Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials.
Stan Jessup, enforcement program manager for the Oregon Construction Contractors Board in Salem, said Russi was also fined for selling 42 properties as an unlicensed developer, because while Mid Oregon Builders built the homes, Russi sold them personally.
Each violation carried a $5,000 fine with it, meaning Russi owes $210,000 in fines, Jessup said.
Jessup also said that there is another company connected to Russi and Duncan, called First Phase LLC, which has been fined $1,000 and is not licensed in Oregon.
“I don’t see any way that these companies are likely to get reinstated or licensed in Oregon in the future,” Jessup said.
He also said that Russi, in particular, could face criminal charges.
“The local authorities have not been very interested in taking criminal action against these entities or individuals, but working without a license is a class A misdemeanor,” Jessup said. “Our legal authority ends at civil penalties or license sanctions, which are all in place.”