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Court cases show Bentley closing shop

Sean Ryan
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Lawyers representing The Bentley Co. are dropping out of two lawsuits because the company is closing.
Bentley, Milwaukee, lost a $93,000 lawsuit Feb. 23 because the company closed Dec. 29 and did not want to pay attorney fees, according to court documents. The 2007 lawsuit was filed by SCS of Wisconsin Inc., a Menomonee Falls contractor claiming it was underpaid by Bentley and Gilbane Building Co., Milwaukee, for demolition work performed on the Eastcastle Place project in Milwaukee.

“Gilbane will pay us, and it will be their desire, or their opportunity, if you will, to collect against Bentley,” said SCS attorney John Machulak, of Machulak, Robertson & Sodos SC, Milwaukee. “The impression that we had was (Bentley) had wound up, and that there were no more assets to be had.”

Machulak said it is sad to see Bentley, a 160-year-old company and Wisconsin’s oldest contractor to have the same family ownership, close its doors.

Bentley’s attorneys also asked to drop out of a Waukesha County Circuit Court lawsuit wherein Ross and Lisa Kopfer claimed the company did faulty work while renovating their Oconomowoc home in 2006. The Kopfers are seeking $1.1 million in damages.

In a Jan. 29 court filing, the Kopfers’ attorneys wrote that Bentley’s counsel said the contractor is “winding up and closing its doors” and would not respond to requests to hand over documents in the case.

On April 1, a Waukesha County Circuit Court will consider the request by Bentley’s attorneys to drop out of the case.

Bentley did not respond to calls for comment. Earlier this month, company representatives said owner and Chief Executive Thomas Bentley was considering quitting construction to focus on development.

Terry Ullsperger, business manager for the Operative Plasterers and Cement Masons Local 599, Milwaukee, said Bentley has slowly pared down the number of masons on staff.

“I hate to say we could see it coming, but what scares me is we’re seeing more and more of this,” he said.

“It’s scary a little bit when good contractors like Bentley end up going out of business or end up closing their doors.”

Ullsperger said he never received a complaint about Bentley during his 10 years at Local 599.

“It was like one of those contractors you didn’t have to worry about that makes your job easy because they always did everything right,” he said. “You hate to see the good contractors disappear.”

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