(Toledo, OH) A spokesman for the Ohio Bureau of Testing and Registration confirmed that Corporate Protection Services, an alarm installation company, which is owned by Blade owners Block Communications, is not in compliance with state licensing requirements.
BCI, owner of The Blade and Buckeye Cablevision, purchased the alarm company CPS in 1998. CPS provides security and fire alarm systems plus monitoring to thousands of Michigan and Ohio homeowners.
Barry Webne, general manager of CPS, insists that his firm is in full compliance with the licensing procedure of both states.
"We have filled out all of the necessary paperwork and paid all of the licensing fees," he said. "We had the Michigan license registered in the name of an employee because the state used to have residency requirements. I have no idea why our licenses do not show up in the records."
Records from the Michigan Bureau of Commercial Services indicate the current status of the license as "lapsed," and that the license expired on Dec. 2, 2003. State records also failed to reveal a license under the name of the individual employee Webne identified as the license holder.
Webne declined an offer to fax Toledo Free Press the licenses he claims to possess.
On its Web site, CPS claims, "CPS installers are fully trained, licensed, bonded an insured. CPS is the security company of choice of many builders in NW Ohio and SE Michigan."
Violating Michigan laws by selling, installing, servicing or monitoring alarm systems without a license is a felony that is punishable by a possible four-year prison term and/or a fine of up to $1,000. In addition, penalties of up to $1,000 per violation could be assessed by the state.
A spokesman for the Ohio Bureau of Testing and Registration confirmed that CPS is not in compliance with state requirements.
"There are no records for a 'Corporate Protection Services' in our systems," he said. "If that company is performing work on fire alarm systems, then they are in violation of the fire code."
Steve Cartmill, a spokesman with the state fire marshal's office, said the state takes fire protection very seriously.
"Ohio Revised Code attaches a criminal sanction for doing work that requires certification and for which one does not possess the required State Fire Marshal certificate," he said. "Every individual engaged in a regulated activity also must carry his own individual certification, and must be working in association with a certified company while performing the work."
Ohio requires companies and contractors to register with the state and pass certification exams. Failure to follow the Ohio fire code can result in fines of $1,000 per violation and possible jail sentences; the state fire marshal can also petition Ohio county prosecutors to seek temporary and permanent injunctions against violators, effectively shutting down their business.
With thousands of customers in Michigan and Ohio, CPS could face fines totaling in the millions of dollars.
Addendum, 5:00 pm: A caller to the Brian Wilson show on 1370 WSPD who purported to be a technician with Corporate Protection Services said that he has maintained his personal license as a technician.
The caller then said that Kim Klewer, onetime owner and president of Coorporate Protection Services, was the person who should be blamed for corporate licensing lapses. In 2003 BCI spun off the commercial sales and installation business to a new coporation, Asset Protection Corporation, which Klewer now owns.
Within minutes I received a call from Mr. Klewer, who vehemently denied these charges. He indicated that he has emails dating back to 2004 that he composed reminding CPS of their obligation to maintain licenses.
He will be forwarding me a statement shortly.
Addendum, 5:50 pm: Here is the response emailed to me by Kim Klewer, former CPS president and current president of Asset Protection Service:
This is a follow up to your request for a statement referencing an assertion publicly made by one or more CPS employees that the licensing issues identified in your story today occurred under my watch & is my fault while president of CPS. Since I have been mentioned in connection with this, I feel I must respond, as follows:
I was President of CPS until 12-31-2003, at which time I formed APC (1-1-2004). CPS wanted out of the commercial security & fire installation & service business and basically rolled that part of the business to APC. CPS wanted to solely remain in the home and monitoring business. Which was agreed upon by all parties.
During the commercial transition beginning in October 2003, Mr. Webne (the new CPS General Manager) and other BCI management members were informed on more than one occasion that the CPS' Michigan License will require Mr. Webne to make application to the State of Michigan since it is the senior most management person who must personally hold the license for the company. As President of CPS the current CPS license would become invalid as soon as I was no longer a CPS employee. Mr. Webne assured us that he would follow-up with the State of Michigan.
We also advised Mr. Webne that we believed there was a grace period of a few months to get the license holder changed.
Not hearing back regarding CPS' Michigan status, I e-mailed BCI to ascertain the situation status of CPS' Michigan license. We were informed that CPS had a Michigan Alarm License. This was and is important to APC since CPS provides monitoring services for APC customers, including those in Michigan.
CPS' State of Ohio Fire Alarm License renewal occurs annually in the late winter or spring and is merely a renewal application and license fee. Each individual who works on a home or business fire alarm alarm must also be licensed individually by the State of Ohio.