Contractor licenses reinstated, officials hope to open for Easter
Church leaders at Heart Cry Church hope to celebrate Easter in their new permanent building now that their building contractor’s licenses have been reinstated.
Construction has been taking place almost daily since Harte Contracting Services LLC in November was cleared of six of eight charges filed against it by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors in conjunction with the Oct. 4 partial collapse of the church under construction.
The agency began its investigation after news media coverage emerged of the job-site accident in which seven workers were injured while installing trusses, AZ ROC Public Information Officer Jim Knupp said in an e-mailed response to questions from the Queen Creek Independent.
(Read earlier story: Contractor’s licenses suspended after Heart Cry Church roof collapse)
(Read earlier story: Heart Cry Church regular service to be held tonight near accident site)
The agency called Justin Harte, owner of Harte Contracting and a member of the Heart Cry Church congregation, on Oct. 12. During this phone call, Mr. Harte stated the company he hired to perform the framing of the commercial building was unlicensed, Mr. Knupp said.
“This is a clear and direct violation of state statute and AZ ROC’s Compliance Department opened an investigation following that phone call,” Mr. Knupp said.
The seven additional charges alleged Harte Contracting entered into a construction contract for which it was not duly licensed, applied for a permit for the project prior to the issuance of the general contracting license, and subcontracted work to a licensed contractor, Az Tech Crete LLC, owned by Heart Cry Church Pastor Billy Van Camp; to perform work on the project outside the scope of that contractor’s license; and other related matters.
Under ARS 41-1092.11(B), AZ ROC may order summary suspension of a license pending proceedings for revocation or other action when the agency finds that the public health, safety or welfare imperatively requires emergency action and incorporates a finding to that effect in its order, Mr. Knupp said.
On Oct. 14, the agency summarily suspended Harte Contracting’s licenses. On Oct. 24-25, the Office of Administrative Hearings in Phoenix conducted a two-day hearing to determine whether Harte Contracting had violated any of the eight charges brought against it and whether such violations were serious enough to justify further suspension of its licenses, according to information provided by Mr. Knupp.
During the hearings, the administrative law judge issued its recommended decision finding the agency proved several allegations and found it had not proven several, Mr. Knupp said.
“The ALJ recommended decision was certainly not what the agency was seeking, but will trust the ALJ’s judgement as the fact finder in this matter,” Mr. Knupp said.
The ALJ found that six of the eight allegations had no merit, Nat Clarkson, Mr. Harte’s attorney, told the Independent in an e-mailed response to questions.
“These included allegations that Harte Contracting had performed substandard work, committed safety violations, made unsworn falsifications and aided and abetted an unlicensed contractor,” Mr. Clarkson said.
The judge also determined that Harte Contracting had told the church that it was in the process of obtaining its commercial contracting license and that, when the license was issued, that Harte Contracting would begin construction of the church.
Under the technical definition of the law, it was inappropriate for Harte Contracting to enter into the contract, even though the church knew that Harte Contracting’s license was still pending and that any work would be performed after the license was issued, Mr. Clarkson said.
The judge also determined that the framing subcontractor had lied to Harte Contracting about whether the subcontractor had a contractor’s license. Due to some clerical oversights, Harte Contracting did not catch the misrepresentation until after the accident occurred, Mr. Clarkson said. Had Harte Contracting known about the subcontractor’s lack of license, the subcontractor would have been fired immediately, Mr. Clarkson said.
“The judge found that there were several mitigating factors in this case. These included: 1) that Harte Contracting had never been the subject of any complaints; 2) that Harte Contracting had never had any prior workplace injuries or accidents; 3) that Harte Contracting had a safety protocol consistent with the requirements of OSHA; that 4) Harte Contracting had updated its safety policy in an effort to improve implementation of that policy and intended on working with ADOSH to have a safety evaluation; and 5) Harte’s actions were not precipitated by any bad motive or by a desire for pecuniary gain. The judge even pointed out, ‘to the contrary, Harte was not making any money, but rather was acting as a result [of] Justin and Nick Harte’s desire to help their church,’” Mr. Clarkson said.
On Nov. 4, the court issued its final decision to reinstate Harte Contracting’s licenses. The result of the order deemed the time the licenses were suspended as the disciplinary action appropriate for the statute violations, Mr. Knupp said.
On Nov. 7, Harte Contracting resumed work on the new church. Since then, additional workers have been on the job-site six days a week, about 10-12 hours a day, to make up for the time lost during the suspension, Mr. Harte said.
“We’re still pushing hard to get the work done by Easter,” he said. The down time, he said, “really hurt us, but we’re back at it now.”
Mr. Harte said the suspension has set back his work schedule and marred his reputation.
“Arizona of Registered Contractors did not issue a statement (that his license was reinstated). That’s what’s killing me. Now when someone looks up my name (online) all they see is the accident. I want to get the truth out there that the accusations were incorrect,” Mr. Harte said during an interview.
Mr. Harte said he is grateful to his regular clients with whom he has worked for years and who waited for his licenses to be reinstated so he could resume work on their projects.
Mr. Harte and his family have been members of Heart Cry Church for about four years and he is a member of its motorcycle ministry, he said. He said he and Pastor Van Camp are focusing on finishing the Queen Creek church.
Heart Cry Church does not have a dedicated church building and holds Sunday services at various locations in the town. They include two morning services at Newell Barney Middle School, 24937 S. Sossaman Road in Queen Creek; a 6 p.m. cowboy church service at Horseshoe Park Equestrian Centre, 20464 E. Riggs Road in Queen Creek; and 10 a.m. at Harkins Queen Creek 14, 20481 E. Rittenhouse Road.
In addition, church members gather for a weekly prayer session at the construction site at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, the pastor said.
Pastor Van Camp expects about 400-500 of the church’s 500 congregants to attend Sunday services in the new building, he said during an interview.
Plans for the new campus include a 600-seat worship area, a playground area and elementary and young adult learning classrooms.
Heart Cry Church has been serving Queen Creek and the surrounding communities for about 12 years, Pastor Van Camp said.
Church officials are planning a grand opening celebration for the new building.
For more information about Heart Cry Church, visit its website at http://heartcrychurch.com/.