The Newnan Times-Herald


Contractor consternation: ‘blacklist’ group forms

  • By Sarah Fay Campbell
  • |
  • Aug. 23, 2017 - 8:29 AM

Contractor consternation: ‘blacklist’ group forms

Sarah Fay Campbell / The Newnan Times-Herald

Lauren Partington took Mitchell Lemacks to court for not completing the screening in of her back porch. She hired him in March of 2016. The new studs still stand.

A group of Cowetans, frustrated by their dealings with a local handyman, have banded together on a secret Facebook group to share their stories – and photos of the work they are unsatisfied with.

“Knowing that we weren’t the only ones that he cheated out of money was a huge stress relief,” said Karlye Ramer, who said she also appreciates “being able to lean on each other while dealing with his inability to complete jobs or do jobs properly.”

The handyman service that has brought the 13 members together is All Pro Services and its owner, Mitchell Lemacks.

One member, Lauren Partington, took Lemacks to Coweta Magistrate Court and won a judgement of $695 against him. She had hired him in March of 2016 to frame up and screen her back porch. 

After the judgement, Lemacks sent her a “promise to pay” document and asked her to sign it to get her money. 

The document states that upon final payment all contact between the two parties must stop including “social media, public/group forums, private social pages or groups, public/private slander or defamation of character or business.”

“I’m not signing it,” Partington said after receiving it. Lemacks later agreed to pay the money without the paperwork,  and Partington received her money Aug. 4.

Lemacks said that several former customers have been regularly making posts on Facebook to warn people away from his business and some are directly contacting people who are considering hiring him. 

His intention with the promise to pay was to get Partington to stop.

“Social media makes it very easy for a handful – or less – of people to get together and really try to make somebody look bad,” he said. “I’ve seen customers that go in under a fake name and try to destroy a business.”

“I feel like I’ve got a respectful business. I’ve got a lot of great reviews,” Lemacks said. In the 12 years he’s had his company, “this is the first time anything like this has come up. I can’t make everybody happy, but I really try.

“I’ve only had a handful that ever voiced any dissatisfaction to me. I’ve always done my best to address any dissatisfaction,” he said.

Temporarily overwhelmed

In the last few years, he’s found himself with a good problem – more work than he can get done, Lemacks said. And he got behind on some projects, including Partington’s. 

He also had some health problems that put him out of work for days at a time, and he had some problems with his truck. “I got behind on more than one job,” he said.

Since then, “I’ve made policy changes as far as the size of jobs I take to make sure I don’t get behind again,” he said last week. 

For the most part, he’s a one-man operation, and that means it will take him longer to complete work than it would a company with several employees.

“Everybody in small business wants more work than they get can get. Unfortunately it’s not always better for the business,” Lemacks said.

Former customers come together

The group got its start when Dan Reed posted a negative review on the All Pro Services Facebook page.

Then Reed started getting messages. “People were messaging me asking, ‘Did you ever get any money out of this guy? How did you settle?’” Reed said. “After about five or six people reaching out to me like that is when we put together the group.”

After the initial judgment against him in Coweta Magistrate Court, Lemacks filed an appeal to give him some time to figure out his next step. 

Lemacks said he had offered Partington a refund of $100 less than she was awarded in the judgment before they went to court. She disputes this.

After Lemacks filed the appeal paperwork, Partington left a negative review on his Facebook page, which Lemacks said was very misleading, and he took the page down.

Reed had hired All Pro Services to put siding and trim on the new garage the family was building, with an apartment to live in while they build their new home. 

Lemacks brought another worker who actually did the siding and trim work, and did a great job.

Based on that positive experience, Reed hired All Pro to hang drywall and paint in the garage. The Reeds needed the work done quickly so they could move in. “We decided to hire him based on a very specific timeline,” Reed said.

“What was supposed to be a three-week project stretched into a little over nine weeks,” Reed said. He said he was asked to advance payment a few times. Lemacks reportedly declared the job finished while Reed was out of town, though Reed had specifically asked him not to.

“When I got home and looked at the finished product, I tried to get in touch with him to come out and finish his work,” Reed said. The drywall had been sanded all over, leaving a fuzzy surface, Reed said. There were joints and corners that were unfilled and screw heads sticking out.

Reed decided to finish it himself. “I think – after I got home – I went through about four to five additional buckets of joint compound,” he said.

Lemacks said the problems with the drywall were caused by Reed’s wife, who used wet sponges and a wet Swiffer to remove dust before priming and painting, even though he had specifically told her not to get the drywall wet and to use brooms and vacuums instead. “They destroyed the final finish coat of mud,” he said.

Partington had hired All Pro Services to frame up and screen in her back porch.

“I paid him $1,000 to start on the back porch. He came back one time, framed it and never came back,” she said. There was always an excuse for why he couldn’t come back, she said.

She said she waited a year before filing the suit.

The judgement granted by Judge Jim Stripling was $695 because some of the wood that was paid for was installed.

It’s been an upsetting experience for the Partingtons. “My husband works seven days a week,” she said. “We just don’t have money to spend and get screwed up over,” she said. “I know it happens all the time. People need to know and stay away from this guy.”

One mother who asked not to be named hired Lemacks to do some repair work around her house, and also decided to have some pressure washing and painting done.

“I should have known something from the beginning because it took him three times to give us a quote,” she said.  She paid $1,800 up front for materials.

When he didn’t show up as planned, she called. “He had a problem, something happened to his truck the first time. This went on for two and a half weeks. He had a sickness, truck issues, had a child get sick,” she said.

She asked for her money back. She said he told her he would be there the next morning to get started. He pressure-washed the house and left some paint charts. She said picked out the paint colors she wanted, but got a runaround.

“I said ‘Look – I’m not doing this anymore,’” she said. “I contacted him and said I have pages and pages of excuses. I get that you’re too busy, I want my money back. He said ‘No ma’am, we will be there tomorrow morning.’” But no one showed, she said.

Lemacks said she never told him which colors she wanted and that days of rain kept him from doing any of the exterior work.

She was eventually able to get her bank to reverse the credit card charges – after nine months. However, Lemacks said he disputed the reversal and his credit card processing company did not take the money from him.

When Desiree LaRussa bought her home, it needed some work, and she hired All Pro Services. Work included fixing up the front porch, removing a doggie door in a wall, drywall work and insulation. 

They agreed upon a price, and LaRussa said she was asked for money up front for materials. The insulation work was done and then, “It went on for weeks with him saying he was going to come do stuff,” she said.

He told her he couldn’t find siding to match, so mismatched vinyl siding was screwed onto her exterior wall. 

Work was done on the interior drywall but not finished, she said, and “he never started anything on the porch even though he had gotten supplies for it.”

Lemacks said that the siding was temporary because a snowstorm was forecast and he wanted to get the hole in her wall fixed quickly, and was going to come back and finish it and the other work.

Eventually, LaRussa fired him and hired someone else – who found siding that matched perfectly.

She said the weather was only a factor for a couple of days and Lemacks said no one would be able to find matching siding and it just needed to be painted. She didn’t want it painted. 

“It wasn’t done properly at all,” she said. “I did fire him after I got tired of waiting on him to come do anything after that.

“At the time, I kind of felt alone,” LaRussa said. She started a Facebook page for Coweta service reviews.

Shortly thereafter, there were posts on the All Pro Services page calling LaRussa insane, a lying thief and a scam artist and listing her name and address.

“Knowing we are not alone helps,” LaRussa said of the new group.

Several of the group members contacted Coweta’s business license department with their concerns.

If someone is in violation of Coweta’s ordinances, the business license department would investigate, but most of the complaints were civil matters, said License Coordinator Joy Thompson.

Satisfied repeat customers

Lemacks said many of his customers are repeat customers, and several had positive things to say about him and his work.

“I’ve used Mitchell for years,” said Tom Estelle, who owns several rental homes and formerly owned a restaurant. “I think he’s a great man. He knows what he’s doing. He’s prompt. He’s there when I call,” Estelle said. Lemacks has done a little bit of everything for him and “it’s always excellent work.”

Another customer said Lemacks has always done a good job for her and that she has referred several of her clients to him. “I’ve never heard any bad reviews from any of them,” she said. “I know every now and again things happen with particular customers, but in my personal experience he’s always been on the up and up.”

Bill Brenner said Lemacks repaired his home after flooding. “He was great to work with,” Brenner said. “We will use him for work we need in the future.”

Worth every second

After she received her money from Lemacks, Partington said the dispute was finished, for her. But she encouraged others to take action when they feel they have been wronged by people they hired.

“If there are no consequences, then they are going to keep doing it,” she said. “We can’t just let them get away with it. 

There needs to be punishment, and they need to pay back what they took from hard-working people. It was worth it. It was worth every second, every amount, every penny – it was worth it. If anybody ever does that to y’all again, you better get it in the courtroom. . . you work too hard for that money.”

Partington said every time she makes a post on Facebook about All Pro Services, she’ll get a message from someone else who has had a negative experience. 

When a dozen people from different backgrounds have connected over a bad experience, that says something, she said.

Lemacks said that he offers a warranty for most of his work for two years and if any customer needs a warranty repair, they should contact him.

“I don’t feel that I’ve done anything to deserve being bashed,” Lemacks said. “I want everybody to know that I’m not out to do anybody wrong and I never have been. I’m going to continue to offer a quality service at a fair price. 

"The customers that I can’t make happy – I’ll have to deal with them as they come.”