Councilmember ignores building codes

Councilmember Sven Goldmanis has been fined by the city of Mercer Island for failing to comply with building code requirements at the condo he owns on 80th Avenue S.E. Goldmanis has also been ordered by the city of Bellevue to stop work on another condo he owns near S.E. 8th Street in Bellevue.

After dodging inspections for nearly four months, the city of Mercer Island has fined Goldmanis for violating building code requirements regarding work completed at his Mercer Island condo. City building code officials have been trying to perform an inspection at Goldmanis’ condo since April. As they were unable on several occasions to schedule an inspection, they recently forwarded the case to the city attorney.

According to Mercer Island city attorney Bob Sternbank, the city mailed Goldmanis a letter last week concerning a past due inspection and the associated fines. Sternbank said the councilmember replied to the notice, stating he would be out of town for a week and would call to schedule the past-due inspection once he returned. Goldmanis said the same thing a month ago but did not schedule the inspection when he returned, Sternbank said.

“We only use infractions as a last resort. We don’t try to make money off of them,” Sternbank said of the fines. “They are to gain compliance with the codes.”

According to Tom Campbell, a code compliance supervisor with the city of Bellevue, Goldmanis began demolition and construction work at his Bellefield Park condo last winter without the proper permits.

Bellevue was notified about the work, Campbell said, when a complaint was filed by an individual in March. A code compliance officer then inspected the condo and issued a stop-work order. Two days later, Goldmanis went to the permit office and applied for a limited scope permit, which allows minor work to be conducted.

However, three days later, a code compliance officer returned to Goldmanis’ Bellefield condo and noted the councilmember continued the illegal work despite the stop order. The officer issued another stop-work order that prohibited any further work on the condo until the required permits were received and an inspection is completed.

An inspection took place July 9, Campbell said, and the code official gave Goldmanis permission to continue some electrical work in the master bedroom and bathroom. While the inspector issued Goldmanis the partial approval to continue some work, additional inspections are required for him to continue plumbing and other work.

“If he dodged later inspections then he wouldn’t be able to get permission for occupancy,” Thompson said. “It’s not common but it’s not unknown either for property owners to miss inspections. It can be hard to schedule a time when the contractor, property owner and inspector are all available. If we have to, though, we’ll sometimes make them open up the sheet rock to check the wiring or plumbing if the building was not inspected.”

Last week, the Reporter published an article concerning the councilmember’s residency and issues with building codes in Mason County and here on the Island.

In addition to compliance issues with building codes, Goldmanis was not legally registered to vote at what is assumed to be his current residence. The Reporter was unable to determine with certainty where Goldmanis resides. Goldmanis did not respond to requests from the Reporter to answer questions about his home address.

His voter registration has also not been challenged by an Island resident or the City Council even though he has not updated it in nearly four years.

Under state law, voters must renew their registration when they move. Elected officials must be legally registered voters to maintain public office, meaning they must update their address when they move. Councilmember Goldmanis has not updated his address with the county’s election office since his divorce in 2004. He is still a registered voter at his former residence on 84th Avenue S.E.

According to Jeff Even, an election law expert with the state attorney generals office, a complaint challenging the councilmember’s voter registration based on his residency has to be filed with the county elections office. A judicial hearing would then determine his residency. As part of the voter registration challenge process, Councilmember Goldmanis may submit proof of his residency and update his address.

Goldmanis may also notify the county elections office to update his address. He is also required to update his address with the city’s payroll department. While he has listed several different addresses at separate times, he now lives in a condo up for sale on 80th Avenue S.E.

Before Goldmanis began working on his Bellevue condo, there were problems with the sale. According to Traci Brandon, an Island resident who sold her mother’s condo to Goldmanis, the negotiations didn’t go smoothly.

While the condo was vacant the dishwasher broke and hot water spilled all over the unit for five days, causing significant damage, she said. The damage prevented the completion of the sale but the parties remained under contract.

During that time, Brandon said, Goldmanis had told her he needed the situation resolved quickly because he had nowhere else to live.

“He asked me several times to pay his rent or give him money so he could find another place to live,” Brandon said of the contract negotiations for the condo. “I knew he was a Mercer Island councilman and he lived on Mercer Island. But he gave us the impression that, after he was done fixing up the condo, he was going to live there.”

The sale of the condo was finalized at the end of January 2007, after four months of negotiation.

Brandon also said the insurance company offered to pay remodeling costs because of the damage. It offered enough money to restore the condo to its previous condition. Brandon said that offer wasn’t enough for Goldmanis.

“You want as much as you can to renovate after something like that, everybody does,” Brandon said. “What the insurance offered wasn’t satisfactory to him. It wasn’t going to pay for granite and things like that.”

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