Gary Pappas is back at work.
He was the first contractor to take on a badly rundown foreclosed house through the city’s new rehab program. He was also the first contractor to quit, after his ex-wife revealed that he had stolen money in 1999 from his failing company’s employee retirement account.
He has already served his time — though not for the original offense, but for failing to make timely restitution payments — but he was criticized by some members of the City Council for not telling them about his past. Councilman Vince Riggi said in January he didn’t think Pappas would have been chosen as the first contractor for the city’s new program if they had known about his history.
Humiliated, Pappas quit, but he never officially resigned, and Building Inspector Eric Shilling quickly tried to mend the rift.
“Regardless of public opinion, there is absolutely nothing that disqualifies this person from completing a building project,” Shilling said, adding that Pappas had already been punished for his crime.
“It’s been taken care of and disposed of,” Shilling said. “The mistake was a decade ago. If I am only allowed to work with perfect people, I’ll be in this office alone — and I might not even be here.”
So he asked Pappas to come to City Hall and “talk this out.”
“We had a mutual agreement that this is a great program,” Shilling said.
Pappas also spoke with city officials, who emphasized they don’t all share Riggi’s point of view. Pappas said he had quit because he thought it was the right thing to do, if the council genuinely no longer wanted him. Once other council members said they still supported him and Shilling spoke with him, he changed his mind.
“We’ve got to work through these things if we’re going to succeed and not just fold,” Pappas said.
Shilling also went to bat for Pappas publicly. He explained that the city was in no danger of being bilked or conned, even if Pappas failed to rehab 14 Myers Alley.
The city isn’t out any money if Pappas walks away. None of the contractors are being paid — they make their money when the rehabbed house is sold.
In this case, the site is a long-vacant building downtown that had been covered by climbing vines and filled with trash. Pappas plans to buy and live in the house this summer if his work passes inspection. For now, however, the city still owns it.
If Pappas were to walk away with the job half-done, another contractor could finish it — and many would probably line up to do so, Shilling said.
He noted that contractors who finish someone else’s work would end up with a greater profit, since they didn’t have to put as much money into the project. Any contractor who drops out halfway through doesn’t get a share in the sale of the house.
After some discussion, Pappas agreed to come back. He has now cleared out the trash and hired an electrician, who is working at the site now. He will hire other subcontractors to handle other parts of the work, while doing some himself.
The work is scheduled to be completed in April or May.
Shilling was delighted to get Pappas to finish the job.
“It is fantastic,” Shilling said.