MANATEE -- The construction company hired to repair mold- and leak-plagued Willowbrook condominiums is suing two residents for defamation after they posted information on a website and placed signs in one resident's vehicle.
Dueall Construction officials claim, in a suit filed May 16 in 12th Circuit Court in Manatee County, Willowbrook residents Andrew Smith and Armando Oyola Delgado "have initiated a campaign to smear and defame Dueall and its owners," which are Sal Ventimiglia and Anthony Robbins.
The suit names Smith's website, thekbhome.com, which displays a police mugshot of Robbins and a link to information on the Manatee County Sheriff's Office website about Robbins' 2006 arrest and conviction for cocaine trafficking. Under Robbins' photo, the site asks: "Don't you think that you have the right to know who will be working on your home?"
"The content Smith posted on his website falsely implies that Dueall and Robbins lack proper moral character and are not to be trusted," the lawsuit charges.
Delgado displays a sign on the back of his pickup truck with Robbins' photo and conviction information. The lawsuit also charges it constitutes "false statements and fear mongering undertaken to maliciously and intentionally injure Dueall."
Willowbrook, a 270-condo complex, contains 51 buildings just outside the western boundary of Lakewood Ranch. It has been plagued with construction deficiencies linked to water intrusion and sinking floors on the second- and third-floor decks and interior floors, along with mold.
KB Home, which built Willowbrook, has also been sued by homeowners demanding repairs and some home buybacks.
Former state Sen. Mike Bennett, now Manatee County supervisor of elections, asked the Florida attorney general to investigate possible fraudulent practices by KB Home.
KB Home, in turn, sued 41 subcontractors involved in the original construction, demanding a jury trial.
Dueall's attorney, John Campo of Gainesville, refused to comment on the lawsuit.
Smith defended his website Wednesday.
"Everything up there is factual," he said. "I've done nothing wrong."
Smith said the lawsuit took him by surprise. The information about Robbins is public knowledge, he said.
"I wanted to bring it to the attention of homeowners," Smith said. "It wasn't my intent to be defamatory."
Ventimiglia, co-owner of Dueall, said the Willowbrook controversy has been difficult. He defended his company's reputation, saying the home repairs have been anything but simple.
The first Dueall repairs are what he calls investigative.
"The process of figuring out what's wrong has taken a long time," Ventimiglia said.
Three engineering firms, one hired by Dueall, another by the homeowners association and a third by the county, all must all agree on how repairs are done.
"It's important that we're all on the same page." Ventimiglia said. "We've learned a lot in the first three buildings. We'll move more efficiently," in the future, he said.
He also responded to Smith's criticism his relatively young company lacks the capability to handle a multimillion-dollar contract.
"The company (Dueall) has a questionable resume," Smith said. "They've never done this kind of work before."
Ventimiglia said he built more than 400 homes with one company and his field supervisors have years of experience.
"We're young and hungry," he said of Dueall. "In three years, we've quadrupled our business. We're doing a very good job out here."
Jim DeLa, East Manatee editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @JimDeLaBH.