TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A state investigation by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is underway after a solar panel company in Central Florida went out of business and left several customers with incomplete installs.
The investigation started with a call to police by one of the former business partners about a possible forged or unauthorized signature being used on company documents.
The company, Sundurance Solar LLC, located in Ocala, began operating in April 2015 and sold solar panel systems across the state. By December 2017, it was out of business, leaving several people paying for systems that were not completed or working.
News 6 tracked down two of the partners listed on state incorporation documents to find out who their customers can call if something goes wrong with their systems or if they have systems that are not connected yet.
“The anti-bucket list of a business owner is to be on the news talking about their business,” said Michael Fryzel, who was co-owner of the now defunct Sundurance Solar LLC.
According to state incorporation records, Fryzel, of Winter Haven, was the registered agent and officer of Sundurance Solar LLC. He says he was in charge of the sales, and his partner, Carl Boyd, was in charge of the installs.
Fryzel said Boyd, a licensed contractor, was the qualifier for their solar company.
“That was his department, he was the head of it and he ran it with an iron fist,” Fryzel said.
According to the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association, the state of Florida has licensing requirements for all solar contractors, and a state license is required for anyone who installs, alters, repairs, maintains, relocates or replaces any sort of solar or PV systems.
Web extra : Florida law requires the contractor be qualified. According to the US Solar Institute, a qualifier can be the owner or anyone else employed by the contractor. The other individuals employed by the contractor are not required to be licensed. In the state of Florida, solar exams are only given three times a year -- in February, June and October. Read the statute here.
Fryzel says the company had more than 100 customers under contract, but in mid-2017, things started falling apart. And his partner, the qualifying agent, decided to leave.
“After Hurricane Irma, we struggled; we were out of revenue for a month,” Fryzel said.
Fryzel said he feels horrible about leaving customers with unfinished work, and wants them all to know he's sorry.
“These are my customers, they trusted me, they trusted our company,” Fryzel said.
One of those customers was Cyndie Chase of Apopka, whose story was featured on News 6 in March.
Chase was left with an unfinished solar system and during our investigation she discovered the wrong equipment was installed.
“You know, shame on them,” said Chase, who is now using another local solar power company recommended by her financing company to fix and complete the job.
“The report was correct, that the inverter she bought was not installed,” Fryzel said after finding Chase’s contract in his business records.
Fryzel admits he ordered the plans for Chase's system, but says his partner Boyd was in charge of the install and was still the qualifying agent at the time.
But Boyd claims there are several jobs he was never made aware of, including this one.
Fryzel disputes that.
“You know by law you are responsible for every job, every permit, every check but you don't know about 50 jobs? That's ridiculous,” Fryzel said. “We talked about every single job, every contract.”
Boyd would not go on camera, citing pending litigation.
But his attorney did send News 6 a statement explaining Boyd's side of what happened, and guaranteed customers he will inspect and fix any problems free of charge:
Unfortunately, it does not appear Sundurance is experiencing a normal business failure.
Following discussions with Sundurance in the summer of 2017 regarding my desire to leave the company, I provided Sundurance with notice August 3, 2017 that it needed to obtain a new Qualifying Agent, but agreed to oversee the installation of sold jobs for at least 60 days to permit a new qualifier to be hired. On or about November 10, 2017, I formally sold my interest in Sundurance and agreed to continue to serve as the Qualifying Agent for a maximum of 20 days to allow completion of open outstanding permits. On December 5, 2017, I became aware that some permits obtained by Sundurance had been obtained without my knowledge and provided Sundurance with notice that it was to cease all activities involving the use of my professional license. Investigation into the activities of Sundurance are ongoing. I am personally aware of at least two occasions where Sundurance had work performed by a third party without my knowledge as the Qualifying Agent and without obtaining necessary permits.
I have delivered an email to every Sundurance customer of which I am aware informing them that if problems are encountered with their system that I installed they should contact me directly. It has become apparent to me in the last three months that there are Sundurance customers of which I am unaware. Consequently, I am offering Sundurance customers a free check to ensure their project was properly permitted and equipment was properly installed. Sundurance customers may request that service by contacting me at 888-570-0004. If a problem is discovered, I will inform appropriate authorities and pursue material defect warranties, remedy workmanship issues or remedy permitting irregularities as necessary.
Boyd confirms to News 6 that he filed a police report with the Ocala Police Department and notified the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, claiming his signature was used without his knowledge or permission on several Sundurance Solar LLC contracts. State records show he even submitted a report from an expert document examiner who stated she found significant dissimilarities present in the questioned signatures of a few business documents when compared to the signed documents Boyd says he did authorize.
But Fryzel says there's no way Boyd did not know about those documents and contracts, because he handled all the Sundurance Solar installs and Fryzel submitted bank records to both News 6 and state investigators, reportedly showing Boyd was getting paid during that time.
“How can the guy who is in charge of that department and who is legally responsible for it say somebody else did it?” Fryzel asked.
Both men blame each other for the demise of the business.
“When this separation occurred, he (Boyd) stole all our domains, and all our websites, and all our emails. Shut down all company internet activity and even changed our website to say we're out of business and that there’s fraud and all this stuff,” Fryzel said. “He notified the municipalities directly and that stopped all our work. We couldn't call an inspection, we couldn't pull a permit, it crippled the company 100 percent, it put us out of business.”
But both Boyd and Fryzel agree on one thing: Sundurance Solar customers should have been treated better and not caught in middle.
“I wasn't ignorant,” Fryzel said. “I knew we had a lot of service and installation issues, but we had a plan in place that would have fixed it. By now it would have been fixed.”
Fryzel also adds that all equipment should still be under warranty with the manufacturer should there be any issues.
According to the Ocala Police Department, the police case Boyd filed has been cleared by exception and closed but the state investigation into his complaint continues.
Web extra: Former Sundurance Solar LLC workers contacted News 6, stating they were left high and dry at the end of the year, but are now working at Boyd’s new business venture. See the letter they shared with News 6 here.