By Steve Miller
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
In 1997, the Florida Attorney General’s Office completed an investigation into pest control company Terminix, finding that it had engaged in consumer fraud.
Despite the investigation – and other complaints about the company since then – the state has since paid Terminix hundreds of thousands in vendor payments. The payments go back at least until 2005, the farthest back records are available, as a vendor for pest treatments in the Department of Corrections, the Department of Health, and the Department of Transportation, among others.
Additionally, Terminix currently holds three state contracts worth $35,000, including an agreement with the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.
In an April 1997 press release, then-Attorney General Bob Butterworth’s office crowed about the agreement it had struck in the wake of its findings about Terminix.
“Our joint investigation revealed that in many instances, Terminix failed to fully treat properties for subterranean termites despite its promise to lay down a complete protective barrier against the destructive insects,” [Department of Agriculture andConsumer Services Commissioner Bob] Crawford said.
“On the properties we inspected, we found that as many as 25 percent of the holes drilled for chemical injection were in effect dummy holes with no chemicals applied,” [state Attorney General Bob] Butterworth added. “We also found supposedly treated areas where the company had drilled no holes at all.”
Terminix would offer refunds, the release said, although the company denied malfeasance.
Today, all of the officers of the Memphis-based Terminix who were in place in 1997 are gone, state records show. But in 2005, where state records pick up the status of Terminix as a vendor, two of the eight officers in place during the troubled time were still officers. Terminix has endured legal troubles for years, including employment issues and conflicts similar to those in Florida, with allegations of incomplete treatments. Terminix has prevailed in a number of the cases. A recent federal suit in California alleges misprepesentation by Terminix employees.
In April of this year, Frank Natal, a contract manager for the state Department of Transportation, filed a complaint with the state against Terminix, alleging the company failed in its duties for the state on a number of levels, including “unsatisfactory communication” and “unsatisfactory problem resolution.”
The complaint also states that a Terminix employee accidentally locked himself in a janitor closet. “Gary (technician) states that he panicked and began to break the door open. The facility is unmanned, yet Gary never contacted the contract manager nor did the local Terminix office of leadership for Terminix.”
“This was three month later that I found out who had caused the damage to the door,” Natal told the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. “I was questioning the technician and he mentioned that he had told his superior about it and they had forgotten to tell me.”
By then Gary had forgotten which turnpike facility he was treating when he locked himself in. The state had to fix the door hardware, including locks, and the kick plate on the door.
The company did not return a call seeking comment.