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Coppock v. Mundell

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department B

June 20, 2013

GEORGE DICKS COPPOCK, III, dba CAVE CREEK ABODE, Plaintiff/Appellee,
v.
WILLIAM MUNDELL, in his capacity as Director, ARIZONA REGISTRAR OF CONTRACTORS, an agency of the State of Arizona, Defendants/Appellants.

Not for Publication -Rule 28, Arizona Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Cause No. LC2011-000170-001 The Honorable Crane McClennen, Judge.

Francis J. Slavin, P.C. Francis J. Slavin Ellen B. Davis Attorneys for Plaintiff/Appellee.

Thomas C. Horne, Attorney General Montgomery Lee, Assistant Attorney General Attorneys for Defendants/Appellants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

SAMUEL A. THUMMA, Judge.

¶1 This case involves a challenge by licensee/contractor George Dicks Coppock III, dba Cave Creek Adobe (Coppock) to an order by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC) directing a $30, 000 payment to homeowners from the Residential Contractors' Recovery Fund. In substance, Coppock argues he could refuse to participate in ROC proceedings for years, then seek de novo review in superior court and properly obtain a remand order for an evidentiary hearing before the ROC (which Coppock did not request when given the opportunity). Finding no error by the ROC, the superior court's order is vacated and the ROC s order is reinstated.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

¶2 In 2003, the ROC issued Coppock a Class C-5 contractor's license for residential adobe structures. In early 2005, Coppock entered into a contract to build a home for Jeffrey Arnold and Maria Lourdes Sierra (Homeowners) with payment to Coppock of $578, 000. The home was to be completed later in 2005. When the home still was not completed in July 2007, Homeowners filed an administrative complaint against Coppock with the ROC (Case 08-0177) alleging various violations of the Contractors Practice Act, Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) sections 32-1101 to -1171 (Act).[1] In December 2007, the ROC issued a Corrective Work Order requiring Coppock to correct various deficiencies by appropriate means by the end of December 2007. Coppock did not perform the corrective work as required by the Corrective Work Order.

¶3 In June 2008, the ROC filed a citation and complaint, alleging various violations of the Act by Coppock, including "refusal to perform after submitting a bid on work without legal excuse" and "[f]ailure to take appropriate corrective action . . without valid justification within a reasonable period of time after receiving written directive from" the ROC in violation of A.R.S. §§ 32-1154(A)(1), (A)(23) .[2] The complaint put Coppock on notice that a failure to respond within 15 days would be deemed an admission of the charges, meaning Coppock's license could be suspended or revoked without any further proceedings. Coppock failed to timely respond, filing an answer a day late.

¶4 In October 2008, "[b]ased on the entire record, " the ROC issued a Decision and Order (2008 Decision) concluding that Coppock "violated the provision of A.R.S. § 32-1154 as charged." The 2008 Decision ordered Coppock's C-5 license suspended if Coppock failed to perform the corrective work by the effective date (March 21, 2009). By its terms, the 2008 Decision was "self-operative, " becoming effective if Coppock did not file written confirmation of timely completion of the corrective work. Coppock was informed in writing that the 2008 Decision was "a final administrative decision reviewable by the superior court."

¶5 Coppock never sought judicial review of the 2008 Decision, never performed the corrective work and never provided written confirmation to the ROC. Accordingly, the 2008 Decision became effective and final March 21, 2009. As a result, Coppock's C-5 license was suspended effective March 21, 2009.

¶6 In May 2009, Coppock sent a letter to the ROC claiming he had been trying to contact Homeowners "since 4-4-09" (after the 2008 Decision became final) to complete the corrective work. In a July 2009 response, the ROC wrote that Coppock's C-5 license had been suspended "since May 1, 2008 for non-renewal" and, accordingly, he could not perform corrective work. The ROC response also informed Coppock that his C-5 license "shall remain suspended in this matter. [Homeowners] may apply to the Residential Contractors' Recovery Fund." Coppock never responded.[3]

¶7 Homeowners apparently hired new contractors to complete the corrective work that Coppock failed to perform. As a result, in December 2009, Homeowners filed a claim (Case 09-7110412) seeking reimbursement of $102, 208.21 from the Residential Contractors Recovery Fund (Fund) for those costs. After an investigation, Fund inspector Scott Deering concluded that the reimbursable costs for the corrective work totaled $66, 495.40 and recommended the Fund pay the Homeowners $30, 000, the maximum amount available. See A.R.S. § 32-1132(A).

¶8 In January 2011, the ROC provided Coppock a Notice of Claim for Administrative Payout stating Homeowners were to be awarded $30, 000 from the Fund. The Notice stated that, pursuant to A.R.S. ยง 32-1154(F), Coppock had until January 25, 2011 "to request an administrative hearing to contest the amount and/or propriety of the payment" and that his failure to do so "shall be deemed a ...


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