It’s unclear whether city will seek to revoke license of Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel in wake of felony convictions
photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo
City of Lawrence code allows a contractor license to be revoked if the contractor is convicted of a crime related to his or her work, but whether the city will pursue revocation of Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel’s license following his recent felony convictions remains undetermined.
Specifically, city code gives the building official authority to revoke a contractor license in the case of a severe violation, a habitual violator or when the licensee is convicted of a crime or assessed an administrative penalty related to the licensee’s work as a contractor. When asked whether the city was considering revoking Fritzel’s license in the wake of his recent convictions related to improper asbestos disposal, Building Official Barry Walthall said that he could not comment on the matter.
“I would say that could potentially be an ongoing matter that we don’t feel appropriate discussing at this moment in time,” Walthall said.
The code states that in making the determination, the building official or the Building Code of Appeals shall take into account the severity of the alleged violation and all other relevant mitigating and aggravating circumstances. If a contractor’s license is revoked, the contractor is not eligible to apply for or be issued a contractor license for five years, according to the code.
Fritzel was found to have knowingly violated the federal Clean Air Act and federal regulations related to asbestos disposal at the former Alvamar Country Club, now known as the Jayhawk Club. On July 30, 2019, a jury took about two hours to find Fritzel guilty on three counts related to the disposal of material containing asbestos, a hazardous material that has been linked to cancer, during remodeling work at Alvamar in 2016. Fritzel was found guilty of knowingly failing to notify environmental agencies prior to removing asbestos material, knowingly failing to wet asbestos before removing it from the construction site and knowingly failing to dispose of asbestos waste in leak-tight containers.
Fritzel is involved with multiple construction-related companies, including DFC Company of Lawrence. If a company were to lose its local license, it would not be able to do construction work that requires a permit within the city limits.
Speaking in general, Walthall said that if he found it appropriate to revoke a contractor license, the contractor would be sent a notice listing the alleged violations and penalties. He said a 14-day appeal period would follow, wherein the contractor could appeal the decision to the Building Code Board of Appeals. The board would hear the appeal as part of a public meeting.
If the city decides to pursue the revocation of Fritzel’s license, it would not be the first time penalties have been considered.
In 2018, the city filed a complaint with the board against DFC Company and recommended that the board temporarily suspend the company’s license because of the pending federal asbestos charges and repeated violations of the city’s contractor licensing regulations, as the Journal-World previously reported. At the time, Steve Six, an attorney representing Fritzel, told the board in part that it was not known whether any of the indictment allegations against Fritzel were true. Ultimately, the board voted unanimously not to suspend Fritzel’s license while the case was pending.
Fritzel was sentenced for the asbestos violations last week. On Thursday, Judge Holly Teeter sentenced Fritzel to three months in prison for each count, with the sentences to be served concurrently, and ordered him to pay a $55,000 fine. Teeter said she considered various factors when deciding the sentence, which was lower than the recommended 10-16 months, including an analysis conducted by a toxicologist at Fritzel’s request that indicated the asbestos exposure posed little risk.
In another felony case, related to the development of The Oread hotel, Fritzel was indicted on charges of scheming to collect more than $400,000 in fraudulent tax refunds from the City of Lawrence. That case was tentatively set to go to trial last month, but Fritzel pleaded guilty to the charges on Jan. 9. As part of the plea agreement, both parties agreed to recommend a sentence of 12 months and a day in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing in that case is scheduled for May 4.
Related story: Thomas Fritzel tax fraud case
More coverage: Thomas Fritzel asbestos trial, sentencing
Timeline: City of Lawrence tax dispute with Thomas Fritzel, Oread hotel
● April 28, 2017 — All parties sign settlement in city’s lawsuit against Oread hotel
● March 29, 2017 — Judge orders conclusion of mediation in Oread hotel lawsuit
● Jan. 20, 2017 — Judge orders mediation in city’s lawsuit against Oread hotel
● Dec. 9, 2016 — City’s lawsuit against Oread hotel moved to federal court
● Dec. 4, 2016 — City: Oread hotel developer admitted to much of alleged tax scheme
● March 15, 2016 — Oread developers agree to comply with city demands
● Dec. 31, 2015 — Oread group pays nearly $500,000 to city ‘under protest’
● Dec. 30, 2015 — City seeking more than money from Oread group as deadline nears
● Dec. 16, 2015 — City overpaid Oread hotel’s development group, mayor says
● Nov. 22, 2015 — Lawrence hires firm to evaluate Oread tax district