Epp to probe elevator complaint

Complaints Commissioner John Epp confirmed on Friday his office will investigate the complaint filed by AndroGroup Elevator Ltd. against Planning’s Building Control Unit.

‘We’ve made this decision on the basis that [AndroGroup Elevators] has crossed the threshold of having no other available remedy,’ Mr. Epp said.

The complaint suggests the BCU is unfairly requiring elevator inspections for new installations by Androgroup Elevator, but not for those by competitor companies. Androgroup Elevators Chief Executive Alan Roffey also suggested a reason why in the complaint.

‘We believe it is a fundamental conflict of interest that Mr. Allan Moore, the Chief Electrical Inspector, should be in a position where he can use his official powers, and nearly 30 years of civil service, to influence his colleagues’ decision, both within the department and in other government departments, so as to interfere with a new business operating in an industry his department is empowered to regulate, and that is also in direct competition with a company in which he is a significantly interested party,’ Mr. Roffey wrote in his complaint letter.

‘Even if it were not true, it looks like it is, and so undermines the credibility of the department.’

Mr. Roffey stated in the complaint that new elevators put into service by a competitor company, Cayman Elevator Sales and Service Ltd, have not been inspected and approved before put into operation.

In addition, Mr. Roffey stated the BCU has unreasonably delayed elevators inspections for his company; allowed other elevator companies to put elevators into service without the requisite inspection; and allowed other company’s elevators that have been inspected and found to have deficiencies to remain in service.

While not at the core of the complaint, Mr. Roffey suggested elevators on the island might be unsafe. Other than the recently adopted requirement for an initial elevator inspection of new installations, elevators are not required to have other inspections here. Mr. Roffey maintains that there should be required regular inspections and all elevators, including on ones already installed.

His complaint letter stated Androgroup Elevator was called to three buildings that had people trapped in elevators in the last month. In all three situations, Mr. Roffey stated the reason for the failure was improper installation.

Because of the public safety issue, the complaint got the immediate attention of Mr. Epp. Normally, the Office of the Complaint’s Commissioner will take anywhere from one week to one month to decide whether to undertake an investigation, according to Mr. Epp. However, Mr. Epp decided to investigate Androgroup Elevator’s complaint in just couple of days.

Mr. Roffey said he was called into a meeting with Mr. Epp shortly after sending the letter of complaint.

‘I was surprised how quickly he got back to me.’

Mr. Roffey said he was at the Office of the Complaint’s Commissioner for one and a half hours on Thursday. He met with Mr. Epp for the first half hour, and then with office’s investigator, Neville Smith, for the rest of the time, he said.

Chief Building Control Officer Emerson Piercy said he would have liked to have commented on Mr. Roffey’s allegations before the first article about the matter appeared (Caymanian Compass, 28 September 2007) but could not do so before the issued deadline because of scheduled meetings.

‘As a follow-up to the article, please note that we will cooperate fully with the Office of the Complaints Commissioner’s investigation,’ he said.

Mr. Epp said it was difficult to say how long his office’s investigation would take.

‘That’s difficult to say. We have to talk to everyone else, and that takes time,’ he said.

As with any complaint and investigation, Mr. Epp said his findings will not be made public, at least by him. However, complaint findings have been made public in the other cases in the past by one of the parties involved.

The findings of this complaint will go Mr. Roffey and the BCU. In addition, Mr. Epp said a copy of his report on the matter would go to the Chief Officer responsible for the Planning Department.

‘So it goes to a level where action is probable,’ Mr. Epp said.