The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 32.0°F | Overcast

Contractor’s Business Practices Scrutinized

By Zareena Hussain

An MIT investigation into the businesses practices of Jeff Hurley of Safety Clean of New England is continuing. The Institute now states that Hurley is a legitimate businessman despite statements from members of several Fraternities Sororities and Independent Living Groups to the contrary. The investigation began after several fraternities alleged that Hurley had charged them up to $900 for kitchen hood cleaning services that he never performed.

According to Chief of Campus Police Anne P. Glavin, no complaints have been lodged against S.C.O.N.E. with the Massachusetts State Attorney General’s Office or the Boston Better Business Bureau. “We have no evidence at this time of any scam,” Glavin said.

According to Assistant Dean for Residence Life and Student Life Programs and Adviser to FSILGs Neal H. Dorow, Hurley also produced a certificate of insurance under the name AAA State Fire Marshal Restaurant Exhaust Systems Cleaning & Fan Repair Company. Hurley stated that he has joined AAA in a business partnership. S.C.O.N.E. itself does not appear in either Cambridge or Boston business listings, but Hurley’s own number, advertised on S.C.O.N.E. stickers, does appear under the AAA listing.

Hurley threatens legal action

Hurley has threatened legal action against several fraternities and independent living groups. He has stated his intentions to sue Duane H. Dreger, who while acting as assistant to Dorow, sent an e-mail warning FSILGs that Hurley was overcharging for services. He has also stated his intentions to sue The Tech and reporters Frank Dabek and Anna K. Benefiel who first wrote about the allegations against Hurley in The Tech.

The Tech reported in an article on March 16 that Hurley said he talked to Dorow, even though Dorow was in Europe. Hurley has since clarified that he meant Dorow’s office. MIT’s varsity hockey coach also confirmed after the March 16 article that he did indeed know Hurley and had played hockey with him in the past.

A headline for the continuation of the March 16 article: “Imposter Posing as Cleaning Man Swindles FSILGs,” was incorrect. Hurley does in fact have a cleaning business, and some of the FSILGs’ allegations of wrongdoing by Hurley are in dispute. “I’ve never done anything wrong,” Hurley said.

Several members of FSILGs reaffirmed previous statements that Hurley may have tried to cheat them out of money. In addition, more houses have come forward with accounts that Hurley attempted to and in some cases actually did charge them for services they say were never rendered.

Several fraternity members stated that Hurley came to their houses in early March and put S.C.O.N.E. stickers dated September or August of 1998. Members said that after visiting in March, Hurley told them that he had cleaned their kitchen hood six months earlier and that the houses owed him money for those services.

According to Aimee B. Angel ’00, housemanager at the Women’s Independent Living Group, Hurley came to the house March 12, and said that he was there to clean the ventilation system.

Angel said that Hurley was told to wait at the door but proceeded to WILG’s kitchen while Eleanor R. Foltz ’99 attempted to determine whether there was anyone at WILG who could verify that Hurley had been contacted to perform cleaning services.

Hurley said the hood needed to be cleaned and also “claimed all residences were required to have this cleaning every six months,” Angel said.

“He never did anything except put up a sticker with his name on the [kitchen] hood,” Angel said. According to Angel, Desiree L. Naten ‘00, WILG’s treasurer, witnessed Hurley write a date of Aug 15, 1998, on the sticker when he put it up in March.

The previous Tech article had incorrectly stated that Hurley began to take down the ventilation filter to clean it and that he charged $450 for this cleaning. In fact, Hurley did not work on the filter; this charge was for the work Hurley said he performed in August.

After WILG was not able to verify Hurley’s claim that he was contracted to clean WILG’s kitchen hood, he was asked to leave by Naten. Angel said that Hurley telephoned her later that he would come Saturday to clean the hood. After telling Hurley that she didn’t want him to return he stated that WILG “had an outstanding bill from when he had been in to clean in August,” Angel said.

Hurley did not come to clean WILG’s kitchen hood in August, according to Angel. Hurley states that he contracted that job to another service, which is currently searching for the invoice. Hurley also said that a sticker was posted at the time of service, but was taken down by WILG residents.

Others have similar claims

Some fraternities, such as Sigma Phi Epsilon, have reported no problems with Hurley. “We have nothing but good things to say about him... he does his work,” said Sig Ep resident Alberto F. Viscarra ‘02.

However, other fraternities had claims similar to WILG. Nu Delta treasurer Robert W. Cox ‘01 also has alleged that Hurley charged the fraternity for services never rendered. According to Cox, Hurley claimed that he had come in September to clean the ventilation system.

When Hurley came in March, he replaced Nu Delta’s three filters. He charged $150 for this service and in addition requested $450 for previous work.

Although there was a sticker on Nu Delta’s kitchen hood dated September 15, “We aren’t sure it was there before the beginning of March. To the best of our knowledge, it wasn’t there before, ” Cox said.

Hurley obtained a personal check from one Nu Delta brother in the absence of anyone from the house’s government.

“Apparently he wanted to be paid really badly and someone paid with their personal check to be reimbursed later” by the fraternity, Cox said.

In addition, Nu Delta’s house president signed an invoice for both charges, but only because Hurley had stated he had already talked to the house manager, according to Cox.

Hurley says that he has signed invoices from “95 percent of the houses” that are disputing charges, and that he is locating the remainder. “I have all the invoices I need,” Hurley said.

Theta Xi reaffirmed its account as stated in the previous Tech article, that Hurley charged them for services not rendered.

Hurley “has failed to produce a form that we have contracted or requested this service,” said Christopher Drew, Theta Xi’s resident adviser, who filed a complaint against Hurley with the Campus Police.

Drew said that when he wrote a check to Hurley for $900 he was unaware that there was any dispute over the services. The March 16 article incorrectly stated that the amount of this check was $450.

Hurley also said that contrary to the March 16 article, he did obtain payment of the check. Drew says that Theta Xi was in the process of stopping payment and is unaware whether the check has been paid.

Regulations require inspection

According to the National Fire Prevention Agency (NFPA) regulations applicable to Massachusetts, inspections of kitchen hoods are required every six months, but professional cleanings are only required if the hoods are found to be contaminate with grease deposits. A dated certificate of cleaning is only necessary when a professional service has been used.

In the fall and summer of 1997, Vanderwill Facility Advisors examined the safety of facilities related to the Office of Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education including FSILGs, according to Dorow. The consultants were asked by the Dean’s Office to look at fire safety within the FSILG system.

According to Dorow, several of the fraternities were found to have unsafe kitchen hoods. S.C.O.N.E. was on a list of contractors sent to FSILGs advising them that many should have their hoods cleaned. S.C.O.N.E. and others were listed because their sticker advertisements were on the kitchen hoods in some fraternities, Dorow said.

Lieutenant Barry Lynde of the Cambridge Fire Department stated that FSILGs may clean accessible parts of hoods themselves. According to Lynde and the NFPA, the frequency with which hoods need to be cleaned depends upon how much grease is used and how much cooking is done.

The lowest cost for a hood cleaning is $200, according to Susan Staffieri of Clean Sweep, another hood cleaning company. Staffieri said that $450 would cover something like the hood in “a Chinese restaurant,” with about 15 filters.

Jennifer Lane contributed to the reporting of this story.