Mitchell under investigation by Registrar of Contractors after residency claims
Darin Mitchell is now under investigation by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors, thanks to statements from Mitchell and his campaign chair saying he was overseeing a remodel project at the vacant home he claims is his residence.
Mitchell and the owners of the home in Legislative District 13 said last week that the candidate was living rent-free in exchange for helping with the renovation of the Litchfield Park residence. The home is owned by Theresa Koontz, Mitchell's campaign manager, and her husband, Jeff.
But Mitchell's contractor's license expired in July 2010.
The Koontzes' home is in Legislative District 13, where Mitchell won a GOP primary election for the state House of Representatives over Rep. Russ Jones, of Yuma. Mitchell's other home, where he has lived with his girlfriend since 2007, is in heavily Democratic Legislative District 19.
Attorney Tom Ryan is working on behalf of Jones to challenge Mitchell's qualifications to be on the ballot because he doesn't live in the district. He said that besides issues about where Mitchell actually lives, it also looks like Mitchell is working as an unlicensed contractor on the Koontzes' home.
The Arizona Registrar of Contractors shares that concern.
Arizona Capitol Times posed a hypothetical situation to Tyler Palmer, the public information officer for the Arizona Registrar of Contractors, about a man living for free in a home that he is helping remodel, although his general contractor's license had expired.
“That's funny, it sounds like a story I've been reading about,” Palmer said.
Palmer said he noticed Mitchell's and Koontz's statements in the Arizona Capitol Times and he sent a message to the Registrar's investigators asking them to look into Mitchell because it appears he is working as an unlicensed contractor, or at least as a contractor with a lapsed licensed.
Palmer said the office will assign an investigator to the case and determine if Mitchell broke the law. If he is designated as a contractor whose license has lapsed, it is a civil violation. If he is classified as an unlicensed contractor, it is a misdemeanor crime, which can carry a fine of $1,000 and six months in jail. The Registrar of Contractors investigates both types of violations.
If he is designated licensed but lapsed, he would receive a cease and desist order from the Registrar of Contractors, along with a citation for not less than $1,000, Palmer said. Mitchell can then pay the fine, file the appropriate paperwork and become licensed again.
If he is deemed an unlicensed contractor, the Registrar will issue the citation and forward the case onto the appropriate city or county prosecutor, who can choose to go for a prosecution in the case, although they're less likely to follow up if there is no complaint from the homeowner, Palmer said.
“I think he's working as an unlicensed contractor,” Palmer said. “That's what it appears to be, and (after the investigation) certainly the facts may show us otherwise.”
Hank Stephenson can be reached at Hank.Stephenson@azcapitoltimes.com. Find the Arizona Capitol Times online at http://azcapitoltimes.com/.