Homeowners sue Atherton alleging building department negligence, fraud

Couple spending millions of dollars to repair home that passed muster with building department

The town of Atherton has been hit with another lawsuit, this one by homeowners charging that the town and its building department's "gross negligence, fraud and breach of duties" have cost them millions of dollars and severe emotional distress. They are asking for at least $10 million in damages.

Kimberly Sweidy and her husband, Raymie Stata, filed the lawsuit Wednesday (Oct. 20) in San Mateo County Superior Court. In addition to the town, the couple names two former building officials -– Mike Hood and Mike Wasmann -– as well as consultant Michael Cully in the suit.

The lawsuit charges the defendants with breach of duty, fraud, conspiracy to breach duty, and a "taking" of property, which the couple says has substantially decreased in value "due to the unfinished or improper design and construction."

Ms. Sweidy, Mr. Stata, and their two daughters moved into their 8,000-square-foot Atherton home on Broadacres Road in 2007, after a years-long period of construction. After moving in, they discovered major structural deficiencies, inadequate plumbing and electrical work, and a long list of other problems. They are now spending millions of dollars to make the house structurally sound and repair other problems.

Plan reviews for the home, as well as regular inspections and the final sign-off on its code-compliance and safety, were performed by the town's building department, which at the beginning of the project was headed by Mr. Hood until his abrupt retirement in 2006, then by Mr. Wasmann. Mr. Wasmann retired in August amid charges by the couple and other residents that he didn't have proper credentials and qualifications to head the department.

The Almanac published an article in August about the couple's complaints against the town.

In addition to asking for damages "in excess of $10 million," the couple is asking for punitive damages against Mr. Wasmann, charging that he "acted with malice, fraud, oppression, evil motive or intent, or with reckless/callous disregard of and indifference to" their rights, interests and well-being.

The town and individuals named in the lawsuit could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Like this comment
Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Oct 21, 2010 at 12:21 pm

[Post removed. Stay on topic.]

Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 21, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Perhaps the city merely promoted incompetants. No malace in that and saves money in the short go.

Like this comment
Posted by nice try
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

Like this comment
Posted by told the so
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Oct 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm

The sad truth about all of this is that they fired the one guy who tried to clean up both departments.

Maybe they'll bring him back to help clean up the mess.

2 people like this
Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2010 at 12:22 pm

My posts are blocked, but I could recommend a great attorney for you.
Or should I say, firm? They are currently working, I believe on a suit in San Mateo County.
Gibboney cannot say this is OFF TOPIC.

Like this comment
Posted by Deep Thinker
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 23, 2010 at 8:01 pm

For those who were critical of this lawsuit in the August article, think about this:

Ms. Sweidy is suing the contractor. One of his defenses? Atherton approved the work he did, every step of the way.

What if these approvals came about through bribes or other chicanery?

Ms. Sweidy was forced to file this lawsuit. I hope she prevails.

Like this comment
Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Oct 23, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I for one was very troubled by Mike Cully's attitude when he took on the role as the interim building official. He gave me the impression that he was there to help cover problems up, rather than seek to discover and correct the many problems that exsited at the time.

He acted as though he was a self-appointed apologist in-chief.

I fully expect that we will learn more about Mr. Cully's conduct and his firm's relationship with the Town as this lawsuit progresses. As the facts emerge I would fully expect Ms. Sweidy's case to get beter and better.

This case has legs.

Like this comment
Posted by Thomas
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 23, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Deep Thinker: Sweidy is being sued by her building contractor, Fulwiler James for breach of contract after they walked off the job. (Almanac issue August 3rd, 2010). According to the article, problems arose because the property owners never did a qualified soils report as was suggested and I am assuming they breached the contract because they felt the blame rested with Fulwiler James. When problems started to surface about the credentials of Atherton's building inspector, who is not qualified to assess soil conditions, the property owners felt they had a lawsuit against the city that quite possibly could mitigate their breach of contract damages with Fulwiler James.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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