Shitty ending

My premonitions about Dr. Cenci’s determination to reduce the number of outstanding court cases in Citta di Castello prove to be somewhat accurate. On the morning of May 19, 2009, our case against James Fat Boy Stephens, his geometra Leonardo Petturiti, and the building firm once known as LAME (boy does that look like a warning in hindsight, even though it means ‘blades’ in Italian) ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper.

It is at least fitting that Giorgio Merli, the frequently drunken builder who was probably most responsible for leaving gaps on our roof where water-proof roofing felt would more normally be applied, is present on the part of the now-defunct LAME (reborn as LACOS, in case they are on your roof as you read). On the other hand Giorgio is perhaps just one of life’s sad people; it is his brother who is studiously unpleasant and who perjured himself unashamedly in court. To Giorgio’s left is Fat Boy and to Fat Boy’s left is his bouffant court jester, little Leo Petturiti.

Cenci begins the way he means to continue: ‘Is it possible for the parties to arrive at an agreement? This case has been going on for nine years.’ He says this as if it is the fault of an organisation other than the one he works for.

Fat Boy’s Perugia lawyer offers Euro7,000. This is against an estimate (based on standardised, state-approved costs) of something over Euro13,000 that was calculated for the cost of repairs (most of them now done) to the roof. I say no, for two reasons. The first is that the Italian legal system being what it is we only brought one case against Fat Boy, when in fact we were unhappy about all sorts of things that happened at our house before we sacked him. This leads to the second, key reason, that what I really want is a decision by the court that says that what these people have done is wrong, legally wrong, and that ultimately we have a judicial system that establishes that.  The defendants haven’t been conciliatory for the past eight years, they didn’t give a toss when the roof leaked in 12 places and my wife was pregnant (Petturiti finds this remarkably funny), they have sought at every turn to prolong the case, and it is not really a question of money, it is a question of principle and of being able to say that dishonesty does catch up with you.

Unfortunately, Dr. Cenci and I don’t seem to be on quite the same wavelength. His overriding concern appears to me to be to get the case closed — at least I don’t like the faces he makes when I suggest the court moves to a ruling, which would involve reading all the files (it is quite clear he has not read anything so far). Fat Boy’s Perugia lawyer ups the offer a bit, Cenci talks about the case going on for many more years, my lawyer points out that if Cenci allows the other side to send the court-appointed geometra to our house a third time — as has been requested — it will likely be two more years before we get even an initial decision which, of course, they can then appeal.

Numbers are discussed in the background. I am fairly sure that at one point Fat Boy offered more than I actually accepted. I am not really concentrating. I am thinking that I can’t face more of this when we now have estate ageent Davide Leonardi of Leonardi SRL to deal with (more anon). After nine years I have all the evidence I need that the local court system is everything that caricature books about Italy indicate. I have what I need for anecdotal purposes and it is time to start doing something useful. For nine years I respected the court, waited for it to do its job, and did not publicise what Fat Boy and his crew get up to. The few preparatory entries on this blog have not been publicised and they have not, according to the blog software, been viewed. Now that can change.

I accept Euro9,000 and ask Cenci a question: ‘Why is it that with a system like this there isn’t more crime in Italy? Why doesn’t every thief in Europe come here?’ It is a cheap parting shot, but it is also a reasonably serious question. Luckily for Italy, the predictions of mathematised models beloved of contemporary social science rarely stand up to empirical tests — if it were the case, this place would truly be an anarchic hell.

Finally, the farcical addendum. There is, of course, inevitably, a farcical addendum. After we leave, our lawyer recommends that we apply for state compensation that exists for people whose legal cases exceed the current duration ‘norm’ (around three or four years). My immediate response is that there is no way that I am taking taxpayers’ money to compensate me for the incompetence and inefficiency of the state. The lawyer’s argument, however, is that this is one’s only available form of legal protest against a system that does not work. We discuss, and eventually agree to go ahead, on the basis that if we get the money we will not keep it. The compensation is around Euro1,500 for every ‘excessive’ year in court. If you would like to recommend a deserving local charity, please do so…

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5 Responses to “Shitty ending”

  1. Kristian Septimius krogh Says:

    Dear Joe

    Very interesting to read your blog – especially since my wife and I are about to begin a building project in Preggio. Leonardo Petturiti has so far been our geometra (appointed and recommended by the seller).. We would like to hear if you have any knowledge of Marco Callini, also a local geometra and architect ?

    • joestudwell Says:

      Hello Kristian,

      As you will have gathered from the blog, to me it seems remarkable that anyone would recommend Leonardo Petturiti. As you know, people do have different experiences with different people. But I struggle to understand how an experience could be sufficiently different from ours to be satisfactory.

      I have met Marco Callini (Carlini according to a quick web check) only once and so you should not take my view as reflecting anything more than that. Carlini seems to be well thought of by friends of ours who own and manage; Chris Chong, the husband, is himself an ex-Norman Foster architect, has done a wonderful restoration near Montone (about which I will blog this summer) and so is a potentially good reference. The second thing is that Carlini is well known around the foreigner community and has done lots of projects for that group… so you should be able to get clear references both by asking around (start with Chris at Moravola if you have no other contacts) and also by saying to Carlini that you want to see projects he has done and talk to owners. You will be spending a lot of money, so don’t be afraid to demand assurances.

      In general, I would alert you to three things to watch out for with geometras. The first is that there is a ‘book rate’ for geometras, which is very rarely paid. According to the state pricing guide, a geometra ought to cost you as much as 9 or 10 percent of project value; the norm for what is actually paid is in the 3-5 percent range, but a fair price depends on a lot of factors. The second point, which is only ever admitted in private, is that a lot of geometras (not to mention agents) take unreported commissions from contractors and suppliers; this can be costing you 10 percent of a job and you don’t even know it. A lot of people – usually ones who engage in the practice – justify these commissions on an ‘everybody does it’ basis; my own view is that not everybody does it and it is fundamentally dishonest; by not being admitted, it is tantamount to theft. The third point is that there is with many geometras what I would call a fundamental lack of professionalism. As an example, in ten years and several restoration projects, I have never seen a geometra go on to an inclined roof structure to check the quality of work that is being done. Even the court-appointed geometra in our case against Petturiti and the others would not go on to the main structure of our roof, even though he wrote two reports about how it had been constructed! I am sure you have already noticed that Italy is run by a sort of bureaucratic aristocracy, and geometras are one of the groups of lesser nobility within that. This means that the institutional structure does not place a lot of pressure on geometras to behave with competitive professionalism, great organisation or strict timekeeping. And when something goes wrong, as our court case reminds, it is almost impossible for them to be significantly sanctioned.

      I hope this helps a little. Do post more comments if you have anything worth communicating as I hope the blog will start to pick up more readers as I post more this summer.

      • Emilia Says:

        I am Leonardo Petturiti’s wife. Yesterday, when I read on the internet your comments about my husband I was really shocked. We are an absolutely normal Italian family and proud of being what we are. We both come from normal Italian families, poor but HONEST and respected by everybody. You do not know anything about Italy and Italian people and do not have ANY RIGHT to say anything against us. What my husband does is because of his ideas and creativeness and he has worked hard for many years before getting results of his hard work. Now, you come and in few minutes have destroyed what he has done in many years of work. I think this is not fair at all. Have you ever thought about the consequences of your words? What kind of journalist are you? I think the worst, because you are the kind of journalist who speaks without any evidences and says “guilty” to someone like a boy plays with a toy. I am taking information about you, your profession and how it is possible that a “journalist” can slander someone and go unpunished. As you said about the Italian geometras “with them there is what you would call a fundamental lack of
        professionalism”. You do not seem to have a big knowledge of professionalism, do you? I will write to the editors you write for (if there are) informing them on how you practice your profession.
        You perfectly know what my husband has done, he has done his job. If there was a problem it was NOT his fault and he should not get involved in all that. This kind of problems happens every minute in the world and are usually solved in friendly ways. This was not your case. Nevertheless, you have offended my husband and should write official excuses because you caused a serious damage to his image and his future work (for example, becasue of you, he lost a client named Kristian Krogh, for a damage of 30.000,00 euros).
        If we do not receive your formal excuses, we will resort to legal proceedings and go to a new Italian judge (I am sure you will be happy for that!). In the meantime we have informed our Italian and English lawyers about your blog and they are evaluating what to do. I presume that you will get news very soon.

        P.S. All that can happen in Italy, which is a civil nation. Immagine the same situation in U.k. Would an Italian citizen
        have had the same consideration by the English legal system?

      • joestudwell Says:

        Dear Mrs Maccioni,
        Thank you for your comment. I can understand that it is not pleasant for you to read about your husband’s conduct. Unfortunately, I am afraid your husband is not ‘respected by everybody‘ and nor is it the case that I write ‘without any evidences’. I have collected a good number of case studies of your husband’s behaviour from his former clients. While these were not directly material to my own court case against him (and would have made it even longer), they do confirm a pattern of behaviour; I will set out further details in due course on this blog. As one colourful example of your husband not being entirely respected by everybody, I would highlight here that he is among a minority of geometras to have so upset a client that some time ago he was punched in the face by one.

        Anyhow, I have not written about your husband out of malice, but simply because I would not want other people to share the experience we had with a project under his direction. As I say, in anything further I write about him I will provide a very high level of evidentiary corroboration.

        There are a handful of specific points your comment raises that the following answers may be helpful with:

        1. Do I think about the consequences of my words? Absolutely, this is fundamental to anyone who writes for public consumption. I did not write anything about your husband for nine years out of respect for the court while my case was sub judice.
        2. What kind of journalist are you? I have done quite a lot of financial and business journalism, but also social reporting on issues like penal systems, mental illness and drugs. In the last few years I have mainly been writing books.
        3. On the subject of journalism, you quote me in your comment as having said: “with them there is what you would call a fundamental lack of professionalism”. What I actually wrote was: ‘The third point is that there is with many geometras what I would call a fundamental lack of professionalism.’ It may seem unimportant to you, but you have in fact changed my words and misquoted me; most obviously, you have changed ‘many geometras’ to ‘them’ (i.e. all geometras). Oddly enough, you have provided a very good example of what bad journalists do; I make it my business not to be a bad journalist.
        4. I don’t think I follow the logic of your next points. You say that your husband was not responsible for anything that went wrong. Then you say that ‘This kind of problems happens every minute in the world and are usually solved in friendly ways’, which seems to imply that your husband does have some responsibility. Then you suggest he would have been responsive to a ‘friendly’ resolution (which he absolutely wasn’t, which is why there was a court case). Perhaps there is a logic to your remarks and I am failing to understand it.
        5. I do not understand the meaning of your Post Script. I am not aware of any systematic bias against Italians in the English legal system, just as I am not aware of any systematic bias against the English in the Italian legal system.

        Once again, I bear no personal malice towards your husband; it is merely his professional conduct I am calling into question.

  2. Emilia Says:

    Dear Mr. Studwell,
    I take note of your answer, raving and full of lies.
    I think we are in the presence of a slander and maybe a calumny and you will pay for this in the convenient places.
    In the meanwhile, tomorrow we are going to make an information against you at the Italian police to put an end to this bad story.
    I do not know the reason of your behaviour, why you are writing such raving things against my husband, probably it is because you have done so many “social reporting on issues like mental illness and drugs” …..

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