"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Verdean LeMaster and the LeMaster Team are fighting back after Sunday’s ‘lopsided’ and ‘lacking’ article in the Star Tribune. The truth is not in what was written in the article but instead, what was not written. In addition to the derogatory view painted to describe Verdean and his company; the article incited a litany of now published remarks disparaging those associated with the company and their families. Accompanying the article was an article hostile to the insurance industry.
In the coming days, we invite you to visit our website (www.lemasterrestoration.com) to read more about the steps we are taking to preserve our good name and reputation, preserve the good reputations of our honest competitors in the market and to battle for an insurance industry that continues to face a hostile business environment. Below, we provide you with our initial response, but be assured, a detailed item-by-item response is being prepared and much more. The business community, our clients, the political community and our neighbors will very soon see that the ‘real pattern’ of our business practices is an overwhelming pattern of satisfied customers and scores of ‘repeat’ customers, treated responsibly, fairly & ethically.
LeMaster Restoration's Initial Response To Star Tribune Article
On March 21, the Star Tribune wrote a negative story on LeMaster Restoration and its business practices. The article’s writer said the State of Minnesota had suspended our construction license because of shoddy work and inflated invoices. It also quoted a state attorney general who said LeMaster is guilty of a "troubling pattern of violations" dating back to 2004 that include unfinished projects, inflated invoices, work done without permits, and abusive litigation against former customers. After reading this, one would think we are totally incompetent and out to cheat customers. Most of you who know our company and personnel will completely disagree.
We think the vast majority of insurance agents, property managers and adjusters who have referred LeMaster in recent years would find the article’s overriding message to be inconsistent with their experiences. Why? Because their clients tell them so. The truth is, LeMaster receives many repeat fire and water restoration referrals, and our track record compares very favorably with our competitors. Have we had some dissatisfied customers in the thousands of jobs we have taken on? Of course. Our batting average isn't perfect. But whose is? Every agent we talk to tells us that 5% of their policyholders take up the majority of their time and are quite difficult to deal with or have payment issues. The percentage holds the same for us. Some people are out for themselves but those who don't pay their bills or can’t be pleased are never taken to task by the press. It's always the business or industry (like insurance) who is out to rip off the public.
The "troubling pattern of violations" comment specifically mentioned in the article has another side to the story, but the Star Tribune wasn't interested in fair journalism. One simply has to look at the article next to ours in the paper entitled: "Don't Let Home Insurers Duck Out On Claims," to see the bias. That story accuses the insurance industry of avoiding loss payments citing a new book entitled "Delay, Deny, Defend: Why Insurance Companies Don't Pay Claims and What You Can Do About It." One concludes our local newspaper has an axe to grind.
Are we guilty of poor follow-up in some cases? Sure. We aren't perfect. During the numerous CAT’s in recent years, we have slipped up on some administrative details. In one we gave a check to an employee to pull a permit. Unfortunately, he never did, and the check was never cashed. Did he lose it? We still don't know, and won't make excuses. We screw up sometimes, but don't screw customers (pardon the blunt talk). That's not how Verdean LeMaster operates. As for the inflated invoices allegation, if the industry standard Xactimate adjusting program used by most insurers for pricing is inflated, than we are guilty as charged. Since the “Star” article brands us as guilty until proven innocent, we rest our case in the court of public opinion.
In this troubled time we would really appreciate your continued confidence and referrals.
The Truth About LeMaster
Anyone reading Sunday’s Whistleblower article in the Star-Tribune might come to the conclusion that Verdean LeMaster is one of the worst human beings that ever lived and his company is just out to prey on folks in a time of need. I know the true Verdean LeMaster and I know of his company. The article was nothing short of a ‘smear’ of a decent man and a reputable company. Once all of the truth comes out, the question will be asked as it has been before; where will he go to get his good name and reputation back ?
There was no mention in the article about all of the thousands upon thousands of families that have been served like my family, quickly, effectively and fairly by LeMaster. There was no mention in the article about all of the charitable giving of time, money and other resources to the communities, fire departments, charitable organizations, flood relief programs, schools, churches, local communities, just to name a few that this organization provided. Nothing was mentioned about associates of this organization spending days in southeast Minnesota several years ago and even now, following all of the flooding to help with relief efforts, all without pay, all without seeking or receiving any credit, promotion or advertising. There was no mention about the fundraiser inspired and supported by this organization to help a little boy with muscular dystrophy. There was no mention of the financial and other support provided to the Eagan firefighter stricken with cancer. There was no mention of the ‘family day event’ that LeMaster co-sponsored in a big way, for the victims of the Hugo tornadoes or the numerous ‘relays for life’. There was no mention in the article about all of the ‘real’ jobs he has created, at a time when jobs are becoming more and more scarce. There were no quotes from employees, or even former employees. There were no quotes from friends, relatives or associates. There were no quotes from other honest and reputable competitors of this company. No quotes from hundreds of repeat customers. No mention was made of all the invoices forgiven by the company because a hardship made it impossible for the customer to pay in full or even partially. There was no mention of this man and his associates taking calls and responding in the middle of the night, without complaint, to help others in need. There were no quotes from those that have referred new customers to this company. There was no mention of the hardships and heartache this man and his children have suffered through all of this. There was no mention in the article about how this man could have just closed his business long ago and walked away rather than battle a hostile business environment in Minnesota. In the few problems listed in the article, and granted there may be a few more out of thousands of successful projects, there was no mention of how either the customer or even the state agency may be implicated, accountable or responsible for the problems; are we to assume that all customers and state employees never make mistakes ? Are we to assume that representatives of all state agencies, always make the right decisions ? The taxpayers of Minnesota have a financial stake in this. Are we to assume that these state employees are even qualified to make these decisions ? Yet, other than a brief comment from Mr. LeMaster himself, the writer relied only a couple of quotes from state employees along with a few sketchy details of the ‘problem issues’.
The quote that stands out the ‘loudest’ is : “we decided we had to stop this guy. ” Really ? Stop a man who has contributed so much to society and others ?
A good man, an honest man and a reputable company cannot be kept down. Instead, both he and his company will grow even more and become even stronger; and the citizens of Minnesota that have need of the services of this company will be all the better served in the future.
Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota
Whistleblowers ? Where’s the real disaster ?
Disasters happen, it’s never nice nor convenient, but anyone can be awoken in the middle of the night with a home fire or a burst water pipe. I experienced a house fire myself (lost everything of material value) 14 years ago. It wasn’t fun, but no one was hurt, and life went on for myself and my family. With spring flooding in 1996, the roads were nearly impassable in the rural area where I lived, yet the local fire department did their heroic work…and thank God there was a restoration company that answered the call in the middle of the night.
Today, 14 years later I am on the other side of the equation, as an associate of LeMaster Restoration, I now get those calls in the middle of the night from other Minnesotan’s when disasters occur in their homes. The company as well as the industry was blasted in Sundays’ whistleblower article. Yet, as quoted in the article, according to an enforcement officer from the Department of Labor: ‘we just decided this guy (LeMaster) had to be stopped’. I’m concerned that the ‘whole’ truth was not revealed in the article, without any consideration of the hardships caused for the restoration industry without thorough investigation. Continued, unreasonable investigations and regulations don’t do anything to ensure when a citizen of Minnesota is victim of a property disaster that there will be anyone on the other end of the phone call to respond in their time of need.
After all, The Department of Labor and Industry's (DLI) own published mission is to ensure Minnesota's work and living environments are equitable, healthy and safe. Its vision is to be a trusted resource and an impartial regulator for employers, employees and property owners.
The department serves employees and employers by regulating workplaces through education and enforcement.
So the question is: what does the departments’ mission have to do with trying to shut down one more Minnesota business, that provides jobs, taxes and most importantly needed services to the citizens of Minnesota ? Isn’t the economy in Minnesota bad enough…or are state regulators going to continue to chip away at productive institutions only to make the economy even worse and add to the unemployment roles. What do these recent actions do to promote ‘industry’ in our state ?
Frankly, the article was profound, not in what was written, but that which was missing. Out of thousands of restoration projects and Minnesota families being served well by this company, there have been a few problems. But it’s unclear in the article, whether the few problems mentioned were resolved fairly or whether the problem was generated by the customer. Has the state ever heard of a property owner refusing to meet their financial obligations to a contractor or an insurance company ?
There were dozens of facts concerning the resolution of these few so-called problem cases that were not included in the article. Facts that a typical person or agency might say vindicates the company. Yet, the picture created paints the opposite.
In the article, Verdean LeMaster stated he was a victim in this matter and I assure the readers that he is, and so are those like me that are associated with him, and so are the thousands of families we have served effectively, tirelessly and to the highest of standards these many years.
In December, when the bank ‘called’ the loan’; he could have just gone on his way, face the consequences and let the company fold, putting even more folks in the unemployment lines and leaving dozens of loyal customers hanging. But, instead he decided to fight that battle, plus dozens of family and friends who know the real Verdean LeMaster made untold sacrifices, without hesitation, to fight right along side of him. These last four months have not been easy, but when a cause is right, and this one is right, we have remained steadfast in our resolve.
Maybe, it’s time that the focus be turned to the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry to see if they are serving the citizens of Minnesota effectively, tirelessly and to the highest of standards; or is it their charter to just go on some campaign in an attempt to shutter one more productive and honest Minnesota business. It’s not just about this one man or one company or even the restoration and construction industries, it’s about all the companies based in Minnesota.
It’s been suggested that we contact our representatives, governor and even state commissioners; I know I will, how about you ‘fellow citizen’ ? We need to decide to put a stop to these random and unfair regulatory practices.