Former Glendale councilman John Drayman wants the $117,000 that he paid a company to revamp his condominium to be returned to him, according to court documents filed this month.
The refund demand comes almost a year after the company, National Fire Systems & Services, filed a lawsuit asking for the foreclosure of Drayman's North Glendale home to recover the roughly $98,000 it claimed the former councilman owes for extra remodeling work.
Drayman has long said he doesn't owe National Fire money, but now he's going a step further by asking Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Donna Fields Goldstein to grant him a reimbursement.
When news broke that National Fire was a subcontractor of an affordable housing developer that allegedly defrauded Glendale and other cities of millions of dollars through multiple construction projects, Drayman's run for reelection became mired in controversy. Other subcontractors for the developer, Los Angeles-based Advanced Development & Investment Inc., worked on Drayman's renovation, as did the senior project design manager at ADI's construction arm, Pacific Housing Diversified Inc., according to court documents.
Drayman lost his council seat by a slim margin in April 2011.
In May, National Fire stirred the pot again, claiming in court that ADI was in fact the general contractor for Drayman's condo.
If it turns out to be true, then Drayman could have influenced ADI's standing with the city as the developer allegedly guided his home renovation. Drayman has called the general contractor title swap a diversion.
The civil court battle over his condo comes amid criminal legal woes for Drayman. He was indicted earlier this year on 28 charges, including that he embezzled between $304,000 and $880,000 from the weekly farmers market in Montrose that he helped organize.
Drayman has pleaded not guilty. His criminal defense attorney, Michael Kraut, has said someone else stole the money.
The refund demand centers on whether National Fire was a licensed contractor when it performed the remodel, or if the company was the general contractor at all.
When National Fire and Drayman signed a contract in March 2010, National Fire only had a contractor's license for electrical work. It didn't get a general contractors license until roughly nine months later.
A general contractor has the main responsibility over a project and hires subcontractors to complete construction work, such as plumbing or cabinet installation.
The distinction is important because, according to state law, anyone who uses the services of an unlicensed contractor may “recover all compensation paid to the unlicensed contractor for performance of any act or contract.”
Marie Berglund, Drayman's civil attorney, said going after National Fire for the $117,000 was her idea.
“Is John adamant on getting back that $117,000? No, but the law allows for us to get it,” Berglund said, adding that Drayman's “basic feeling is he'd like the case to go away.”
Sevak Bagumyan, National Fire's attorney, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
As the judge reviews the case, she will have to slog through a disjointed chronology.
National Fire says it finished work in January, but Drayman claims the firm finished four months earlier. The timeline matters because National Fire filed a mechanic's lien against his condominium in April. Those are valid only if filed within 90 days of completing a project.