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Former city official in Eastern Washington charged with unregistered contracting

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October 2, 2015

Colville – A Colville painting contractor who's been ticketed nine times for violating state contracting laws now faces criminal charges.

The Washington Attorney General's Office has charged Terry Foster, 82, with three counts of unregistered contracting. Each is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail or a $5,000 fine, or both.

Foster does business under his own name and as "Terry the Consultant" and "Terry the Painter." He served on the Colville City Council from late 2010 through April of this year.  

The case stems from a Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) investigation.

According to an L&I investigative report, Foster has told the agency that he believes contractor registration requirements don't apply to him.

Foster is scheduled to be arraigned Monday, Oct. 5 in Stevens County District Court in Colville, about 70 miles north of Spokane.

Unfair advantage in marketplace

"Contractors who don't follow the rules get an unfair advantage. Their costs are lower so they can underbid law-abiding competitors," said Elizabeth Smith, assistant director of L&I's Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards.

"People who hire unregistered contractors may think they're getting a deal, but they're not. Hiring someone without insurance or a bond is a big risk that can result in a very costly mistake."

Caught at least three times

The charges state that L&I inspectors caught Foster or his son painting at least three times at: a fast food restaurant in Colville in October 2013, a house in Chewelah in August 2014, and an apartment complex in Colville in April 2015.

Inspectors learned about the jobs from tipsters describing themselves as contractors who were frustrated at having to compete against an unregistered contractor.

Owes L&I more than $160,000

L&I has issued Foster nine civil infractions for unregistered contracting since 2008. He made full or partial payments on two of them, but has not responded to the rest. He owes the agency more than $30,000 in fines and more than $130,000 for workers' compensation insurance premiums.

State law requires construction contractors to register with L&I, which confirms they are insured and bonded, and meet other requirements. L&I can issue violators a civil infraction, refer them for criminal prosecution or both.

The civil infraction carries a fine of up to $1,000 on the first offense, and $5,000 on additional offenses.

Consumers can check whether contractors are registered at www.Lni.wa.gov/Verify.

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For media information: Tim Church, L&I Communications,  (360) 902-5673, tim.church@Lni.wa.gov.

Connect with L&I: Facebook (facebook.com/laborandindustries) and Twitter (twitter.com/lniwa)

Broadcast version:
An Eastern Washington painting contractor who's been ticketed nine times for violating contracting laws now faces criminal charges.

The Washington Attorney General's Office has charged Terry Foster, 82, with three counts of unregistered contracting, which is a gross misdemeanor. Foster is scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 5 in Stevens County District Court in Colville, north of Spokane.

Foster recently served on the Colville City Council. Charging papers say Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) inspectors caught him or his son painting buildings at least three times the past three years. Foster has told L&I that contractor registration requirements don't apply to him.

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