Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel does not appeal revocation of his license; work resumes under new contractor
photo by: Rochelle Valverde
Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel has chosen not to appeal the city’s revocation of his contractor license following his recent felony convictions, and work on his most recent project has resumed under a new contractor.
In February, the City of Lawrence revoked Fritzel’s license following his felony convictions related to illegal asbestos disposal during a 2016 renovation project, and it ordered all work to stop on his current project at Hawker Apartments, 1011 Missouri St.
The stop-work order at Hawker Apartments, which was effective Feb. 25, did not allow work to resume until Fritzel found another contractor to complete the project. The stop-work order was lifted that same day, according to information Assistant Planning Director Amy Miller provided to the Journal-World. Miller said in an email that the project resumed under Stewart Contracting LLC on Feb. 25, and work remained ongoing as of this week.
The resident agent for Stewart Contracting is Casey Stewart, according to the Kansas Secretary of State’s business database. Stewart is Fritzel’s nephew and was also Fritzel’s employee during the 2016 renovation of the Alvamar Country Club, the project where the asbestos violations occurred. The federal indictment in that case originally charged Stewart and other Fritzel associates with crimes related to the project, but U.S. prosecutors later filed a motion to dismiss all but Fritzel from the case.
Stewart also had to pay fines and restitution to the city in 2017 after he allegedly removed a safety device on a city fire hydrant and used it to fill a golf course pond at the same site.
Fritzel was ultimately found to have knowingly violated the federal Clean Air Act and federal regulations related to asbestos disposal at Alvamar, which is 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 known carcinogen. 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.
In its February decision to revoke Fritzel’s license, the city cited his convictions regarding illegal asbestos disposal. Under city code, the city has 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. The revocation order states that the decision was made pursuant to city code based on the serious nature of the actions underlying the convictions.
Specifically, the city revoked the contractor licensing of DFC Company of Lawrence LC, whose principal is Fritzel. Without a local license, DFC cannot do construction work that requires a permit within the Lawrence city limits. As a result of the revocation, Fritzel or a company he controls is not eligible to apply for or be issued a contractor license for five years, according to the code.
The code allows a contractor to appeal the city’s decision to the city’s Building Code Board of Appeals. Miller said the deadline for Fritzel to file an appeal was March 10 and that no appeal has been received.
Fritzel was sentenced for the asbestos violations last month. On Feb. 20, 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. At the request of Fritzel’s defense attorney, Teeter agreed to suspend Fritzel’s prison sentence until after the sentencing date in a separate felony fraud case against Fritzel.
In that 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 in January, 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