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Contractors State License Board's Outgoing Chair Highlights Significant Accomplishments

John 'Bert' Sandman

John "Bert"

SACRAMENTO — On June 1, 2006, John "Bert" Sandman completes his term as Chair of the Contractors State License Board (Board). He's also leaving the Board after six years as a member. The following is an open letter from Mr. Sandman to members of the construction industry.

Dear friends,
Let me begin by thanking each and every one of you who work in the construction industry for your support of the Contractors State License Board. Construction is the state's largest industry, and is really the backbone of our economy. Your hard work has made this industry and the Board the standard bearer for the rest of the nation.

As my term as Board Chair and my official service to the Board ends, I want to report on some of our significant accomplishments, as well as what's ahead for the Board. First, I would like to thank my fellow Board officers for their hard work and support. Matt Kelly served as our Secretary this year and did a terrific job. Sadly, our outstanding Vice President John Hall was not able to complete his term. John passed away in February at the age of 52. His loss has left a void for all of us, but his memory and tireless energy continue to inspire us all.

I'm proud of what our terrific staff has been able to accomplish since I was appointed to the Board six years ago. There have been many trying times, but they've been more than up to every challenge. For example, overcoming the loss of 20% of staff due to a state worker hiring freeze. This has been done by streamlining systems and increasing productivity. And, it's happened at a time when we've seen an 80% increase in the number of applications for a contractor's license and a 100% increase in the number of licensing exams given each year.

The staffing cuts hit the Board's Licensing Information Center particularly hard. With adjustments to our phone system, callers to the toll-free number never get a busy signal, nor are they disconnected when there is no agent available to help them. In addition, when callers are transferred to a live operator, they are told the expected wait time. As a result of these changes, wait times have plummeted and service has been greatly improved.

In my time on the Board, staff also implemented a new Imaging and Workflow Automation System (IWAS). IWAS is used to scan, route, retrieve and print various documents used by Licensing Division staff in the processing of applications. Enforcement Division staff also has the ability to retrieve, and print documents for use in their analysis and processing of cases.

In 2005, the Board successfully implemented a new fingerprinting program. All new applicants and each officer, partner, owner and responsible managing employee, as well as all home improvement salespersons or anyone who adds an additional classification to their license, must now undergo a criminal background check. We're already seeing the benefits for consumers by catching some pretty serious criminals who lie on their applications about their criminal past, keeping them from getting a contractor's license.

The Board's Enforcement Division was overhauled after an enforcement monitor project. We've seen marked improvements in this area, especially when it comes to cutting down the time to handle complaints. In July 2002, the Board had more than 600 cases out of 8,600 open complaints that were open for more than one year. As of July 1, 2005,out of about 5,300 open cases, the number more than one year old was just 97.

In addition, the Enforcement Division is stepping up its efforts to deal with unlicensed activity and the underground economy. The Board is one of the key partners in Governor Schwarzenegger's Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition, a multi-agency group that targets contractors who work without a license and/or pay workers in cash under the table and don't carry the proper workers' compensation insurance.

I must also pass along kudos to the Board's Public Affairs Office. The staff has worked hard to raise the visibility of the Board and to let you and consumers know about the important work taking place everyday. They're also responsible for the information-packed education materials available for free to licensees, applicants and consumers.

Looking ahead, the Board will be faced with many challenges. Most importantly is to build on the improvements already made. I'm confident the staff and my fellow Board members will not accept the status quo, and will keep looking for ways to do their jobs better. There's also a necessity to get back lost staff positions. This will help the Board better serve its constituents and to provide even higher quality service. Look for the Board to take an even more active role in battling unlicensed activity and the underground economy.

Again, my thanks to my fellow Board members, Board staff, Registrar Steve Sands, the construction industry and our customers, California consumers. You've made my time with the Board enjoyable and very fulfilling.

The Contractors State License Board operates under the umbrella of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. The Board licenses and regulates California's 302,000 contractors, and investigates more than 20,000 complaints against contractors annually. In fiscal year 2004-05, the Board helped consumers get more than $36 million in restitution.


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