Apparently, authorities believe that crossing state lines makes contractors forget everything about doing their job.
The phrase, “I lost everything,” is an unfortunately common statement from Floridians following the devastating strike by Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28. Conservative estimates put the cost of destruction between $42 billion and $57 billion (which happens to be less than the total amount sent to Ukraine but that’s a different story.)
It is estimated that more than 110 people died as a result of the storm and tens of thousands of others have been displaced indefinitely. The repair and rebuilding process will take well over a year and the amount of help needed to do so is overwhelming. The sheer volume of repairs needed has overloaded the supply of contractors, making it very difficult for people who can afford to fix their homes to even find someone to do it.
Because there is a shortage of contractors, Florida Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Melanie Griffin signed an emergency order earlier this month waiving certain requirements for general, building, or residential contractors to help speed up the recovery process. This order, however, only applies to contractors licensed in Florida.
One would think that the shortage of contractors would have officials praising the influx of certified contractors from out of state who are willing to make the long journey down Florida’s coast to help in the recovery efforts. Unfortunately, one would be wrong.
Meet Terence Duque, the owner of Duque Roofing.
Duque, 48, owns the Texas-based company which is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and has operated successfully for well over a decade along the gulf coast.
Despite his long-standing history, multiple licenses and an extensive list of positive customer reviews, when Duque went down to Florida to offer up his highly qualified services, instead of clearing the path for him, Florida authorities kidnapped and caged him.
Duque was arrested earlier this month and charged with engaging in contracting business without certification during a state of emergency, a felony, according to online court records in Charlotte County, Florida.
Florida officials were so smitten with themselves for arresting this highly qualified contractor that they took to bragging about it on Twitter.
During a State of Emergency, working without proper licensure is a felony. Thanks to #DBPR's Division of Regulation's hard work in impacted areas, @CCSOFLSheriff arrested an unlicensed roofing worker putting Floridians at risk. Read more at https://t.co/7nKipJ4l7M. pic.twitter.com/HAHSKwiZZx
— Florida DBPR (@FloridaDBPR) October 9, 2022
To be clear, Duque is not some rip-off artist who goes around taking advantage of disaster victims. He has a long-standing history of providing high-quality services and this was somehow considered a felony by Florida officials. Apparently, authorities believe that crossing state lines makes one forget everything about doing their job and turns them into criminals.
Naturally, there has been significant backlash online against the officials who arrested Duque. “Are you aware that you’re the bad guys?” one Twitter user responded on the tweet thread above.
Despite backlash from the media and internet community, Florida is standing by their decision.
Houston Public Media reports:
Beth Pannell, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR), wrote in an email that qualified contractors wishing to do business in the state can apply for licenses with the department, which is expediting the review of applicants “so they can get to work on recovery efforts.”
“Unlicensed activity poses significant risks to residents who have suffered severe catastrophic storm damage,” she wrote. “The Department of Business and Professional Regulation works to mitigate these risks to homeowners and businesses through proactive enforcement efforts, outreach and education in the community.”
After his arrest, Duque reportedly told investigators that he had called the DBPR and received permission to work in the state. He also explained that he read an emergency order issued by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and was under the impression that out-of-state contractors were being allowed to work in Florida, according to HPM. Unfortunately, none of this mattered.
“Ignorance is not an excuse,” Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell said as he stood behind the mental gymnastics needed to justify Duque’s arrest. “If you are in Charlotte County, doing business with the people of this community, you had better be on the up-and-up and have the appropriate licensing and insurance. These people have been through enough, and I will not allow unlicensed contractors to further victimize them.”
Imagine thinking that not paying the Florida government thousands of dollars before putting a roof over someone’s head is “victimizing” them. The fact is that this has nothing at all to do with protecting hurricane victims and everything to do with protecting the state’s bottom line. Moreover, moves like this will actually lead to further suffering by the hurricane victims by delaying the much-needed repairs to their homes. Shameful indeed.
Article posted with permission from Matt Agorist
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