The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

May 16, 2013

Attorney general files suit against California contractor

Attorney General Chris Koster on Thursday filed a lawsuit against a California man, alleging he failed to provide construction materials and home repair services that had been paid for by victims of the Joplin tornado.

Koster’s lawsuit alleges homeowners paid Clark Baxter and his company, Sustainable Design, Inc.., tens of thousands of dollars for construction materials to rebuild their homes after the May 2011 tornado. Baxter failed to deliver the materials and stopped working on the projects, according to the lawsuit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court.

The attorney general is seeking an injunction requiring Baxter, 58, Dana Point, Calif., to stop conducting business in Missouri and to provide restitution to homeowners who were damaged by his actions.

Larry and Amy Jump and Megan Snyder said they gave money to Baxter after he came to Joplin and offered to design energy-efficient homes for them to replace properties lost in the tornado. Baxter reportedly said he would serve as general contractor and get materials at a reduced rate. The Jumps reportedly gave him about $54,000 and Snyder gave him about $64,000, which was to pay for building materials. While some of those materials arrived, most never did and the Joplin residents said they could get no response from Baxter by either telephone or email.

The victims had been contacted for the help by the New Orleans-based group Relief Spark that formed after Hurricane Katrina and came to Joplin to help after the tornado. The homes eventually were completed and outfitted by other volunteer groups — Catholic Charities and Samaritan’s Purse — that stepped in to help.

Attempts to reach Snyder and the Jumps were unsuccessful on Thursday. Amy Jump said earlier she had been in contact with the attorney general’s office and was hopeful her family still could recover some of what they gave to Baxter.

“Unfortunately, there are always those who will take advantage of unsuspecting consumers during times of tragedy,” Koster said. “This office will continue to protect consumers by pursuing those who engage in this illegal behavior.”

In addition to seeking restitution for the homeowners, Koster’s lawsuit is asking the court to impose civil penalties of $1,000 per violation and to require Baxter to pay for all court, investigation and prosecution costs.

Jasper County also has a charge against Baxter, a felony bad check charge filed in February alleging he wrote a $6,255 insufficient funds check to Hermann Lumber in Joplin on Oct. 28, 2011.

Baxter was arrested several months ago in Orange County, Calif., on a charge of driving with a suspended license. Dean Dankelson, Jasper County prosecutor, said Baxter also had been arrested on the local charge. He said Baxter would be expected to return to Jasper County or officials would work with California officials to bring him back to the county.

Dankelson and Koster both said their officers were in contact with California authorities concerning Baxter’s case. Dankelson was not available for comment on Thursday.

A spokesman for the Orange County Superior Court in California said Thursday that Baxter had pleaded guilty to the traffic charge.



Five contractors

Since the May 2011 tornado, Koster’s office has taken legal action against five other contractors for illegal behavior related to rebuilding Joplin residents’ homes.

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May 2011 Joplin tornado
  • Local new-home construction catches up to previous pace

    After a slow start early in this fiscal year for Joplin, the construction of new houses has resumed at the pace that existed in fiscal year 2013, when permits for new houses averaged more than 16 per month. Since November, the beginning of Joplin’s fiscal year, permits for 118 houses have been issued for a total cost of $12.8 million. The average value has been about $108,000.

    June 11, 2014

  • 052212 unity walk1_72.jpg SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary

    May 22, 2012 1 Photo

  • 060314 Farmers rebuild 1_72.jpg Farmers Insurance writes manual based on experience from Joplin disaster recovery

    Joplin’s housing recovery from the 2011 tornado is one for the books. Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers Insurance, announced Tuesday that not only will Farmers Insurance stick with Rebuild Joplin to repair and replace the homes left on the local group’s waiting list, but the company also will kick off a similar recovery effort today for the city of Sea Bright, New Jersey, based on a book it has written to expedite disaster recovery that is based on its experience in Joplin.

    June 3, 2014 2 Photos

  • r052214butterflygarden.jpg New park feature opens on tornado anniversary to encourage healing

    Cunningham Park has become an emotional place for Pamela Praytor. The name of her son, Christopher Lucas, is engraved on a monument that stands in the park in memory of the 161 people who were killed in the May 2011 tornado. “Even though I cry when I come, it’s OK,” she said. “It’s part of the healing.”

    May 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • r051214greenbldgs3.jpg Home, business cited as examples of energy efficiency, strength

    Ramona and Charles “Hugh’’ Shields were not the least bit reluctant on Monday to open their new house in the tornado zone to a bunch of strangers who had a lot of questions. “I used to live in a house where I had to wear two pairs of socks in the winter to keep my feet warm — not anymore,’’ said Ramona Shields. “This house is nice and warm in the winter, and nice and cool in the summer.’’

    May 12, 2014 2 Photos

  • Mercy Health System to receive $23 million FEMA grant

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide Mercy Health System of Joplin with $23 million in public assistance funding by the end of the year. The disaster relief was announced Friday by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

    April 25, 2014

  • Respond With Love flower.jpg Joplin pays it forward with flowers; residents asked to return bulbs ‘fostered’ for other towns

    Suzan Morang’s front yard bloomed brightly last year from a colorful array of bulbs that she will happily pass on to someone else this year. Morang, 1207 Xenia Court, is a participant in America Responds With Love, a national nonprofit organization that distributes bulbs to disaster-stricken cities.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Creator of Joplin-based ‘Dear World’ exhibit features Boston bombing victims in new work

    The messages written on the skin of some Boston Marathon victims may be different, but Joplin residents will recognize the handwriting. Robert X. Fogarty, the creator of the “Dear World: From Joplin with Love” exhibit, took his signature style of photography and inspiration to Boston. Fogarty traveled to Joplin in 2011 and took pictures of community members with inspirational messages written on their bodies in black ink.

    April 21, 2014

  • r041414wildwood.jpg Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone

    Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joplin Redevelopment Corp. preparing for first property sale

    The first sale of property from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is scheduled for May 16. The city staff will be working to prepare for that sale, it was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the JRC.

    April 9, 2014

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