Over a year after the Downtown Berkeley balcony collapse that killed six people and injured seven, the California Contractors State License Board, or CSLB, filed a formal accusation Tuesday to revoke or suspend the license of Segue Construction Inc., the company responsible for the balcony’s construction.
According to CSLB spokesperson Rick Lopes, the board worked with the attorney general’s office for eight months, since publicly disclosing investigative reports in April that revealed Segue possibly violated the law. The board eventually determined there was enough evidence to move forward with the filing.
“If we go on to file an accusation, it has to be a serious offense for us to feel like (a contractor) should not have a license, even for a short amount of time,” Lopes said. “It is more rare for us to deal with a situation where there has been injury, let alone death.”
Segue could not be reached for comment as of press time.
Mark Gergen, UC Berkeley School of Law professor, said although the board’s administrative findings are not conclusive or binding, they suggest that the board will be able to establish liability in court.
According to court documents, CSLB alleges that Segue departed from accepted construction trade standards and original plans and specifications while building the apartment where the balcony collapse occurred.
Should Segue’s license be suspended or revoked, David Michael Dunlop and Kirk Alan Wallis, the contractor’s qualifiers who demonstrated the requirements necessary to initially receive a license, would also be barred from working with other licensees for between one to five years.
“There is nothing more severe that we can do to a licensee than stop them from working,” Lopes said.
Lopes said the guidelines set up by the Business and Professions Code determines how long a license will be revoked. Although former licensees will be allowed to reapply after the allotted time, it is not guaranteed their application will be successful.
“The Donohoe family is very appreciative of the fact that the licensing board is taking this situation seriously and ensuring that there are consequences when contractors act in such (an) egregious way,” said Eustace de Saint Phalle, an attorney who represented the family of one of the victims in a previous lawsuit involving the collapse, in an email.
Segue has 15 days from Tuesday’s accusation to file a notice of defense, according to Lopes. Otherwise, its license will automatically be revoked.
Lopes said if the company files its notice in a timely manner, CSLB and Segue could either enter into a stipulative settlement or administrative hearing.
A stipulative settlement is similar to a plea deal, but Lopes is uncertain of what possible agreement would be reached. Meanwhile, if an administrative hearing were to take place, the judge of an administrative court would submit a proposal on a recommended course of action to the Registrar of Contractors.
Depending on which of these paths are taken, the legal process could take anywhere from weeks to months.