Complaints from several Florida clients about a Tampa Bay Premier Pools & Spas franchise have generated a fair amount of negative coverage in the local media.

Nearly 10 Premier Pools clients were interviewed by ABC Action News in Tampa Bay, each claiming they had paid the Premier franchisee thousands of dollars to build backyard pools that had not been completed. One client stated that no work had been done on her pool since Thanksgiving Day 2016.

The report said that Trevor Summers, who was president of the franchise when each of the pool contracts were signed, had an arrest record dating back 15 years and had pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges in Philadelphia. Most of the contracts were signed between January and September 2016, according to the media outlet.

Paul Porter, president/CEO of Premier Franchise Management, which grants the franchises, told PSN that Summers was removed from the company in August 2016 due to his involvement in some “legal problems” and that Summers’ partners, Don Giles and license holder Steve High, have subsequently taken over the business. The two later brought in David Nail to serve as general manager.

“[Contracts] were delayed, but that office is in business [and] they’ve got money to finish all the jobs,” Porter said. “We reassigned 100% of the franchise to [Don and Steve] and [they’ve] been working diligently to get everything back in order and finish all the pools…There’s not one project out there that we contracted that we’re not finishing.”

Ken McKenna, co-owner of Tampa Bay Pools in Brandon, Fla., said that the Premier Pool situation is not helpful to the local pool industry. “Nobody wants to see customers get hurt,” he said.

He said when these things happen, it impacts the local industry because customers hear the stories and then start scrutinizing other pool builders’ ethics and business practices. He also said the Tampa market has its challenges. It is a subcontractor-based market, with limited access to needed labor, making it hard to find people to do the work. He knows of about four pool construction companies that came into the Tampa market within the last five years and have all since closed down.

“Tampa’s a tough market to get into and be successful in,” he said. “There are a lot of old-time pool companies that have been around for [15+ years] that have a following and a name.”

The Premier franchise has had similar problems in the past. In 2014, the Arizona registrar of contractors revoked Premier’s contractor’s license after 48 customers filed complaints, at least 11 of which were substantiated. In January 2016, Premier’s corporate office withdrew the brand’s licensing rights from a Central California location following multiple complaints from consumers and the Contractors State License Board. Accusations ranged from failure to pay subcontractors to abandoning jobs before they were finished.

In an attempt to prevent these types of situations from happening again, Premier began using outside companies to conduct criminal background checks two years ago, Porter said. Before that, the franchisor had been performing the checks in-house via an online service.