Business & Real Estate

Bonney Plumbing, major Sacramento contractor, facing state charges

Bonney Plumbing and Sacramento Republic FC officials announce last April that the team new soccer stadium will be called Bonney Field.
Bonney Plumbing and Sacramento Republic FC officials announce last April that the team new soccer stadium will be called Bonney Field. Sacramento Bee file

Bonney Plumbing, a high-profile heating and plumbing contractor in greater Sacramento, could have its business license revoked or suspended after being accused by state officials of overcharging elderly customers, selling them unnecessary products and committing other violations.

The allegations filed by the Contractors State License Board involve complaints filed by elderly customers in the Sacramento region. While the agency is seeking the revocation or suspension of Bonney’s license, an agency spokesman said it’s possible the case could be settled if the contractor agrees to reform its business practices and pay refunds to the affected customers.

“The company employs a couple hundred people,” said agency spokesman Rick Lopes. “Our ultimate hope is not to put them out of business ... We would much rather work with them, to have their systems in place.

“There are talks going on between the parties,” Lopes added.

Christina Gunn, a spokeswoman for the company, said Friday that Bonney is “working diligently with the board to resolve all of the matters.” She wouldn’t address the allegations in detail, but said Bonney doesn’t discriminate against the elderly. After hearing complaints that the company failed to obtain building permits on some customers’ projects, Bonney created an audit department to make sure employees comply with the law and follow company policies.

“When a mistake happens, it is quickly addressed,” she said. She added that the company handles more than 20,000 transactions a year.

The case puts one of the region’s best-known contractors, whose origins date to the late 1970s, in an uncomfortable spotlight. Bonney’s truck fleet, featuring pictures of founders Mark and Candace Bonney, is a familiar sight throughout the region. The couple sold a share of the business in 2012 to Jimmy Crabbe, a Belgian-born former UPS executive. Crabbe runs the company.

Last year the company, whose main office is in Rancho Cordova, increased its visibility by securing the naming rights to Sacramento Republic FC’s soccer stadium at Cal Expo, Bonney Field.

Republic FC officials declined comment on the charges against Bonney. “It’s a business matter for them,” said team spokeswoman Erika Bjork.

In its complaint, filed last September, the license board is seeking to revoke or suspend the licenses held by the corporation, Crabbe, Mark and Candace Bonney, and several other employees. Lopes said the case is pending before an administrative law judge at the state Government Operations Agency. The judge will make a recommendation, and the final decision will be made by the license board’s executive officer, known officially as the registrar of contractors.

The contractors board’s charges revolve around four customers, all in their 80s and 90s.

In one example, the state said Margorie McCandless, 94, of Sacramento was dramatically overcharged for a new water heater, drain and other products during two service calls in 2012. The woman paid a total of $6,191 for the work; the state’s expert witness said the goods and services were probably worth $2,415.

State officials said Bonney representatives misled Vacaville resident Leonard Granger, 80, about county and city code requirements on a pair of projects for which he paid a total of $3,832 in late 2012 and early 2013. The charges included $313 for two permits that Bonney failed to obtain from the city of Dixon and Solano County.

Bonney also failed to obtain the necessary permits for McCandless and two other elderly customers, Alice Prewett of Roseville and Mary Byers of Sacramento, according to the state. Prewett had agreed to pay $6,016 for a new sewer line and other work, and was being advised to spend another $2,500 for additional repairs, but all work was halted after her son questioned the price. Prewett hasn’t been billed for any of the work.

The state said Bonney committed one other violation in dealing with all four customers: The company used unregistered home improvement sales representatives to market goods and services.

State law imposes limits on the advice that repairmen can give to customers about additional work that might be needed. In most cases, only a registered salesperson can recommend additional goods and services, Lopes said.

Since the charges were filed, Lopes said Bonney has gotten the affected repair workers properly registered as sales representatives.

Call The Bee’s Dale Kasler, (916) 321-1066. Follow him on Twitter @dakasler.