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AG dives into Aqua Pool mess
Process could lead to criminal charges
AquaSaleASK 0772a
The Aqua Pool & Spa building complex on Moffat Boulevard is for sale. - photo by GLENN KAHL
Criminal charges could emerge from more than 100 consumer complaints in the wake of Aqua Pool & Spa’s abrupt closure.

State Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office is now poring over potential sanctions presented to the agency by the Contractors’ State Licensing Board (CSLB) in the Department of Consumer Affairs. The CSLB contends Aqua Pools left pool projects unfinished after accepting early payments of more than $100,000 from nearly a dozen clients in the Bay Area and the Central Valley.

Aqua Pool & Spa has until next week to answer the charges, according to CSLB spokesman Rick Lopes.  This is the first step in the possible revocation of state licenses issued to the pool company and its administrators.  Lopes added the action could possibly involve criminal charges as well.

Lopes said the state focused on the 10 most grievous alleged offenses against the pool company’s customers that came to light when the firm abandoned jobs and laid off construction workers.  The most serious offenses are the alleged collection of monies for work that had not been completed.

The shuttered Aqua Pool & Spa buildings on Moffat Boulevard at Austin Road consisting of 46,000 square feet are now up for sale.  

One complaint made against the firm from a Manteca homeowner was not included in the attorney general’s formal list of accusations.  Eric Tolman, who lives in the 1500 block of Wild Rose Place – near Airport Way and Woodward Avenue – said he had contracted with Burkett Pool Plastering of Ripon to complete his family’s new pool shaped in a figure eight.

The cost difference ended up totaling $12,000, he said.  They had already had paid Aqua Pool $26,000 with the company leaving his pool construction at the rebar and gunite level – still owing them about $3,000, he added.  

The project was supposed to cost $29,000. It ended up costing over $40,000 by the time it was completed.  In all it was about $11,500 more than the original contract, Tolman said.

“Fortunately we had a friend who has done the concrete work for us and did all the decking while we were waiting for Aqua,” he explained.  

Tolman added that an outside vendor that supplied rocks for the project attempted to place a lien on his home after the bill for nearly $3,000 had not been paid by Aqua.

The Tolman children were anxious to swim in their new pool that was scheduled to be finished in August as they gave up several family vacations to provide money in the family budget for the pool addition.

“We’ll be enjoying it next summer,” Tolman quipped.

The state’s action claims a total 35 causes for disciplinary action against the firm’s alleged contractual failings.  Aqua had offices in Elk Grove and Modesto in addition to the large sales center in Manteca.  

CSLB enforcement officer Wood Robinson brought the action against the following Aqua Pool and Spa administrators:

• Richard Lee Townsend as the responsible managing officer, chief executive officer and president of the corporation:

•Bryan John Townsend as a responsible managing officer.

•Gregg Allan Whitley and Julio Cesar Rangel as officers.

A state license was issued at the end of September in 2001 for the classifications of general building contractor, electrical and swimming pools.  The license expires in September of 2011, unless it is renewed Robinson noted.

At the end of June in 2008 Julio Rangel – owner of Rangel Pools – was issued a separate license for swimming pool construction set to expire June 30, 2011.  Some 22 years ago in June of 1988 the state issued a general building contractor’s license that included swimming pools and electrical to Aqua Pool & Spa with Albert Leroy Townsend and Richard Lee Townsend listed as partners.  That license is set to expire at the end of June 2012 unless it is renewed.

The California Business and Professions Code states that the licenses may be suspended or revoked when a registrant is found guilty of or commits any one or more acts or omissions constituting cause for disciplinary action.

One $64,000 project started in the spring of this year involved a pool installation at the Oakley home of Roderick and Luisa San Andres.  It was to have included the excavation and construction of a swimming pool with a solar heating system, the installation of concrete decking and the landscaping of the couple’s yard.

The contractor allegedly abandoned the project in mid-August.  According to the state’s charges the San Andres had already paid Aqua Pools $64,000.  At the end of August Pleasanton Ready Mix Concrete, Inc. filed a lien against the couple’s home for nearly $7,000 for materials it had provided to the Manteca pool contractor that had not been paid.

In the state’s allegations Aqua was failed to provide and install the solar heating system, failing to connect the gas at the meter, failing to provide and install the spa and pool floor cleaning system fitting and spa jet fitting, failing to provide and install a solar pool cover and for not completing the water connection to the fill line.

It was pointed out in the legal filing that the $64,000 exceeded the work that was completed by the date of abandonment of the construction of the pool.

In another Oakley project for the construction of an in-ground pool with a contract price of nearly $64,000,  Jonathan Michaelson complained to the state licensing board that the project which began in July was abandoned on Aug. 5.  It was left without the installation of the concrete pool decking, without the “Pebble Tee” plaster in the pool and failing to provide and install mechanical and electrical equipment with final connections.
The landscaping had also been left undone, the home owner charged.  The attorney general’s office cited that the $36,337 paid to Aqua exceeded the work that had been performed by that date.

Another abandoned project involved a pool renovation in Modesto with a contract price of $49,693.  Construction began on June 20. The work site was abandoned on Aug. 13 with $29,815 already having been paid to Aqua, according to the charges.

Several homeowners called the Bulletin in the past months saying that they had been issued liens against their properties by the Resource Building Materials firm in Modesto claiming they not been paid by the swimming pool firm for materials they had ordered.

Other consumers,  who the state licensing board and the attorney general’s office have included in the complaints,  are from homes in Granite Bay, Tracy, Stockton, Roseville, Castro Valley, and Acampo.

A hearing will be scheduled in January after the Aqua representatives have been given time to respond to the accusations against them by the CSLB and the attorney general’s office.