A Westminster contractor accused a former employee of running a "vindictive" campaign against him, further embittering a protracted dispute over chimney construction.
The dispute involves his company, two related Westminster families and county building inspectors.
"We feel we're being victimized by the vindictive behavior of someone who has an ax to grind," Charles J. Pusateri, owner of Teri Construction, told the Carroll Board of Commissioners during an appeal Thursday of a county building code official's order.
Dissatisfied with results from an original inspection, the two families convinced county inspectors and the commissioners to revisit the house.
After the second chimney inspection at an Allen Way residence near Westminster, code official Ralph E. Green ordered Pusateri to remove several exterior bricks to determine if creosote -- the oily liquid byproductof burning wood -- is seeping outside the flue liner and if the space between the liner and the masonry is too great. Both conditions canincrease the risk of a chimney fire.
Depending on the findings, Pusateri could be ordered to rebuild the chimney at Bill and Shirley Singleton's new house off Brehm Road in the Chazadale North subdivision.
Pusateri recently was ordered to rebuild a chimney, at his expense, at a neighboring new house owned by George and Linda Frazier.
George Frazier is Shirley Singleton's brother.
Linda Frazier worked at Teri Construction as a secretary for more than four years. She left that job last year by "mutual agreement," said Pusateri.
Pusateri and Frazier declined to discuss the reasons for her departure.
Pusateri said his company had built the Frazier house and was constructing the Singleton house before Frazier's departure.
Frazier says her relationship with Pusateri "has nothing to do" with the building code case. Pusateri disagrees.
"We would like to think that this whole affair is being done in the name of safety," Pusateri said. "But because of the way it's being handled, it's my opinion that the county is being used to satisfy someone's need to harass Teri Construction."
He said he believes the case "is the consequence of a personal grudge" stemming from his past relationship with Linda Frazier.
The families contend that the chimney has defects in its construction and that the county hasn't properly enforced its building code.
The Fraziers and the Singletons attended the hearing, but declined to answer questions.
The hearing centered around nine potential building code violations identified by county inspectors and involved technical discussions of chimney construction, safety standards and code interpretations.
Pusateri said he has been building chimneys for30 years and has not had previous problems with the county or customers. He argued that the county is applying more stringent standards to the Singleton chimney than to others built in the county.
Pusateri also contended that some of the Singletons' problems result from improper installation and use of a fireplace insert. The families denythat claim.
Pusateri agreed to fix some problems, said he is a "reputable contractor" and expressed displeasure that the families worked with the county, not him.
The families say they are concerned that the Singleton's chimney could be a fire hazard, which is especially worrisome because Bill Singleton has brain damage and uses a wheelchair.