City, contractor won’t pay for damages to Norfolk business

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Dan Short, owner of FantomWorks in Norfolk, feels helpless.

“Frustrating is just a part of what I’m feeling,” Short told

When the city of Norfolk offered to send someone to clean graffiti off his classic car shop over the summer, it seemed like a no-brainer. But now he’s changed his mind.

“I will never allow the city to call another contractor to come here and fix any damage on my property again,” he said.

As 10 On Your Side reported in January, M.J. Farrell Construction was hired by the city as part of a graffiti clean-up program. It cost Short nothing to have the graffitti cleaned, but he said contracted workers broke a window in the cleaning process. The glass fell about 30 feet onto the hood of a classic car. The car then needed to be repainted, which cost around $3,000.

At first, Short said, the contractor told him to send them the bill, but when the bill was sent, the response was next to nothing.

“It wasn’t until [WAVY’s] report that the contractor at least did respond,” Short said.

But the contractor’s response went something like an email he sent Short and the city last week. He said he ” … fully disputes any and all claim/s made by the owner … Since this is part of the TAG-OUT program, the city of Norfolk as well as M.J. Farrell Construction are indemnified for any and all damages … .”

Also, the day after 10 On Your Side’s first report, Short said someone from Mayor Paul Fraim’s office called, promising to make the situation right. Short hoped the issue would be resolved, until he got this email from City Attorney Bernard Pishko last week:

Unfortunately, the city is not able to accept liability for the damages to your customer’s vehicle. questioned the city attorney about that response. Pishko simply said, “The city is not liable for the actions of private contractors.”

“They neither hired a responsible contractor nor are they accepting responsibility for the damage, so they basically walked away from everything,” Short told

While Short is still left holding the bag, the city attorney did send a strongly worded email to Mike Farrell of M.J. Farrell Construction:

You are wrong if you are of the opinion that your company does not have liability if it caused property damage … The city is unlikely to provide further business to a contractor that does not pay for damages it causes.

Short told he is considering taking M.J. Farrell Construction to court. 10 On Your Side did make multiple attempts to contact M.J. Farrell, but our calls and emails were not returned.

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