Discovery of Mold in Elementary School Halts Repairs and Leaves Contractors Unpaid

MT. CLEMENS, Mich. – The replacement of ceiling tiles and other repairs were left undone and contractors were allegedly left unpaid after mold was discovered at Washington Elementary School in the Romeo Community School District in Michigan.

In response to being unpaid, one of the contractors, Dennis Schutte of DI-S Construction in Utica, Mich., filed a breach of contract suit Dec. 20, 2001 against the school district. Dennis Schutte v. Romeo Community School District, No. 01-5510-CK (Mich. Cir. Ct., Macomb Cty.).

According to Schutte’s lawyer, William G. Boyer, Jr. of Boyer & Dawson in Sterling Heights, Mich., the mold was discovered by the Michigan-based environmental company, Wonder Makers Environmental, Inc., while repair work was being conducted at the school.

A Wonder Makers spokesman, indoor air quality expert Michael A. Pinto, Ph.D., C.S.P., said that he conducted an initial indoor air quality investigation at the school in April 2001. At that time, bioaerosol samples and non-destructive testing found a host of mold species (for more information on Wonder Makers and Washington Elementary, please see ‘Elementary School Student Sues Michigan School District over Mold Exposure’ in this same issue).

However, because the building was occupied at that time, Pinto said that it was impossible to determine the full extent of the mold contamination because of limited visibility. Pinto stated that his April report to the school district indicated this limitation.

Wonder Makers conducted a follow up investigation in June 2001 after ceiling repairs were in progress, at which time Pinto was able to visualize mold, predominantly Stachybotrys, on the roof deck and drywall soffet tops.

According to Boyer, after the mold was discovered in the school, Schutte and other contractors were instructed to stop the repair work being performed. The school has since remained closed and the contractors have not been paid, Boyer said.

There is also a ‘nonpayment issue’ between Wonder Makers and the school district, according to Wonder Makers’ lawyer, Norman A. Yatooma of Norman Yatooma & Associates in Birmingham, Mich. Although there are no legal matters currently pending, Wonder Makers has not yet received full payment from the district, Yatooma said.

Schutte v. Romeo

Schutte’s complaint stated that he was hired by the school district to remove ceiling tiles from the elementary school building and replace them with new tiles. According to the complaint, the building had already been inspected by the environmental expert before Schutte was authorized to begin his work.

After Schutte removed the ceiling tiles and before he was able to replace them, the complaint stated, he ‘was instructed to stop the work being performed prior to the completion of the contract due to the fact that mold was discovered in the building.’

The complaint contended that the school district breached their contract by failing to allow Schutte to complete the contract and by failing to pay him. Schutte requested $51,031 plus lost profits, interest, costs and attorneys fees.

Dennis Schutte is represented by William G. Boyer, Jr. of Boyer & Dawson in Sterling Heights, Mich.

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