Prince George's County has fired a building inspector who allegedly failed to notice numerous building code violations when inspecting 116 homes in 1976-'77 in a Bowie housing development.
The inspector, Samuel V. Stiles, 59, was dismissed Tuesday by James R. Novak, director of the office of licenses and permits for the county.
The action comes 2 1/2 months after a reinspection of the homes in the Northview Estates development turned up building code and warranty violations in virtually every home. The development, which opened in 1977, was built by Levitt and Sons, Inc., a Connecticut based developer that has built most of the new homes in Bowie since 1960.
The reinspections were done after about 150 residents from the development angrily protested the condition of their homes at a March 15 Prince George's town meeting.The reinspections started 12 days later and turned up as many as 34 violations in some homes.
"There was negligence on the part of the inspector," chief building inspector Arthur Brown said. "But this all began with poor workmanship on the homes. The construction was not good. We found repetition of the same violations in many houses."
Stiles said yesterday that he had made mistakes in inspecting the homes but did not feel he had been negligent.
"If I had really been negligent and just purposely made mistakes, that would be one thing," Stiles said. "But they are just setting me up to pacify some people in a vote getting year and that's not fair.
"I made mistakes, yes. But we were terribly understaffed and if I had one big fault it was my bookkeeping. But I wasn't neglectful." (The department had 18 working inspectors at the time of Stiles' inspection, down from a crew that once had 24 inspectors.)
Stiles said he would appeal the decision to an impartial arbitrator who will be brought in to rule on the case. Stiles has been a building inspector for 2 1/2 years.
Among the more common violations found during the reinspection were: windows that were too small, improper vents in kitchens and bathrooms, roofing material cut too short and too thin, which caused some roofs to sag, and inadequate flashing between the brick and the foundation. (Flashing is a material impervious to moisture. It prevents rainwater from getting into a home's foundation.)
After the reinspections the county told Levitt president Edward P. Eichler that the company had 30 days to make repairs.
On April 26, the day before repairs on the first homes were supposed to be completed, Novak attacked Levitt at another town meeting.
"It is obvious," he said, "that the builder's construction supervision broke down completely and he did not fulfill his construction responsibilities."
Shortly after that, Brown began issuing formal violation notices on code violations. Levitt, which does its work exclusively with subcontractors, began sending repair crews into the development.
Novak said this week that he hoped the repair work on building code and warranty violations will be completed sometime next month.Novak said he would ask the county board of registration to hold a "show cause" hearing on Northview before it issues Levitt its 1979 building license.
Representatives of Levitt, including Eichler and Washington lawyer Daniel Singer, have refused to comment on the project or the violations. Eichler's secretary said, "Mr. Eichler does not speak to the press."
The Northview development consists of one-and-two-story homes on one-third acre lots. The 1978 price and goes to slightly higher than $70,000.
"This whole thing has been so frustrating I feel like we're all ready to explode like a volcano," said Dorothy Simons, whose husband, A. J. Simons, is one of the leaders of the Northview Home Owners Association. "I love my home. I really do. All we're asking is a chance to be comfortable."