The CSLB received several complaints about unfinished pool projects like this.
The CSLB received several complaints about unfinished pool projects like this.

A third licensee or franchisee of Premier Pools & Spas’ has abruptly closed its doors and generated negative coverage in the local media.

The national brand’s Arizona office was the first of its 40 licensees and franchisees to see such problems. In 2014, the Arizona registrar of contractors revoked its 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.

The most recent instance occurred in Bakersfield, Calif., where local media outlets reported claims that the Premier licensee there, Michael Ferguson, has abandoned projects in mid-stream.

The CSLB began receiving complaints about Ferguson in October 2015. As of February 2016, a total of 11 complaints have been filed — 10 from consumers, one from a subcontractor.

The agency is investigating the claims, which could result in serious consequences for Ferguson. “If the evidence substantiates our concerns, we will ... file an accusation [with the attorney general’s office] to revoke the license, and/or forward to a local district attorney requesting the filing of criminal charges,” said Rick Lopes, chief of public affairs at California’s CSLB.

Paul Porter, president/CEO of Premier Franchise Management, said his corporation has been repairing the damage, and spent more than $50,000 doing so.

“And I have zero responsibility for that, except for our brand,” he said. “But I think the brand is what people buy. I think the brand should stand for something.”

Porter said five of the customers have contacted him directly, in which case his company either sent funds to cover alleged damages or had Premier Pool crews from nearby cities help complete the work.

“We have a responsibility of making sure that if things don’t go right, somebody steps up and does the right thing,” he said. “And, frankly, I’m proud of that.”

Porter said he has been unable to reach Ferguson, who also could not be located for this article.

Porter defended his company’s process for qualifying licensees and franchises, saying it performs an extensive background check to ferret out those who might abandon projects, take money for incomplete work, and damage the Premier brand.

“But going into an in-depth vetting process doesn’t mean people won’t fail in the swimming pool industry,” Porter said. “[The industry] notoriously [has] a high failure rate, even with the best systems.”

Porter said these issues have not caused much damage to the company, which has seen annual growth of 25- to 30 percent over the past few years. “Our demand for franchises has never been greater,” he said.

Founded in Rancho Cordova, Calif., in 1988, Premier Pools & Spas first began developing into a national brand by introducing a licensing program in 2010. Four years later, the corporation converted to a franchise model. Five of its franchisees ranked among last year’s PSN Top 50 Builders. It has locations in 22 states.