Counts Down...But Not Out
While most air conditioning companies are fighting to keep up with demand during the heat of an Arkansas summer, one owner was fighting to keep his license today.
The battle was ultimately lost.
Why? Too many problems with too many installations of heating and air conditioning units. The complaints built up...they went unaddressed...and the owner of Air One out of Sherwood says he had no idea until it was too late that he had trusted his company to a con man.
About a year ago Bill Counts says his doctor gave him an ultimatum...take a year off from running his business or the day-to-day stress was going to kill him.
But while Counts' health started to improve, his company's financial health was being ruined.
Counts says he hired a childhood friend...Gene Hickman...to run Air One.
He didn't know Hickman had filed bankruptcy months earlier or that he is facing three dozen counts of theft in Lonoke County.
Hickman has a pre-trial hearing next week. His trial is set to start August 20th.
Counts had a hearing on Wednesday before the state's HVAC licensing board. Investigators argued he should have his license revoked.
Counts says Hickman swindled at least $250,000.00 from his company and forced him to file his own bankruptcy.
Counts believes much of his money and some of his air conditioning units have been sunk into Hickman's grand plan to reopen the old Sir Loins Inn restaurant in North Little Rock.
Seven-On-Your-Side has been reporting on Gene Hickman for nearly two years.
Bill Counts wishes he had been watching.
"I appreciate the fine work that you do for the people and the public in trying to get crooks off the streets," offers Counts. "You're a very valuable asset to the community and to the city."
"And what would you say to your customers?"
"I'm going to be here," replies a resolved Counts. "I'm not gonna....I'm not going anywhere. And, ah, that's about it."
Ultimately the state board today decided after five hours of testimony that the buck stops with the owner Bill Counts, not the employee Gene Hickman, and Counts had his license revoked for one year.
Air date: July 10th, 2013