- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2002

Deborah Davis, a writer, and Glenn J. Melcher, a lawyer, are neighbors in a Northwest community who once smiled, waved and helped each other. But a hole in the ground caused a rift in their relationship and a $10 million lawsuit citing fraud, emotional distress and assault.
"First a crack would appear in one wall. I would get it fixed. Then another would appear. I would fix that," said Ms. Davis, who filed the lawsuit last Friday.
Mr. Melcher began excavating the basement and adding a third floor to the two-story rowhouse he bought next door to Ms. Davis in mid-1999. He had lived in a house in the 1100 block of S Street NW on the other side of her property since 1998.
She says the renovation work started affecting her house.
"It happened a little at a time," said Ms. Davis who at first, paid for the repairs herself. A check here for a crack, a check there for floor repair.
"I didn't realize for a long time that the entire house was undermined the excavation of their basement left my house foundation essentially on a cliff of dirt."
Mr. Melcher, an advisory neighborhood commissioner, denies Ms. Davis' accusations and said he finds the situation "unfortunate."
"I don't believe I have ever been anything but a good neighbor," he said. "There are tons of factual errors in the [accusations]. Lawsuit filings can make allegations about anything without having to be substantiated."
Ms. Davis, who has lived in her house since 1989, said Mr. Melcher admitted there was a problem and told her that when his house was finished he would settle with her.
"He told me, "Trust me, you have nothing to worry about,'" she said. "I thought we were friends. I helped him get that house from the previous owner."
Mr. Melcher denied ever admitting that the cracks were due to renovation work on his house. "These houses are 125 years old," he said. "I share the same party wall. Yet I have no damage to my house," he said.
Ms. Davis contends that Mr. Melcher took advantage of her. When she asked him to settle up for damages, she said he evaded the subject. When she took a second mortgage in 2001 to pay for repairs, doubling her monthly house payment to $1,800, she tried to talk to him again. She said she got nowhere.
"I was really a great neighbor. When [he] didn't keep his promises, I realized I had to get myself a lawyer and sue him," Ms. Davis said.
In frustration Ms. Davis said she went to the city. A housing inspector checked on the house and cited Mr. Melcher for building without the correct permit, documents show. The inspector issued a stop-work order January 2000 for "misrepresenting" facts in the permit application, according to documents. A new permit was issued in March.
Ms. Davis questions why a new permit would be issued despite what she considers remaining falsehoods on the application. City housing inspectors were unavailable for comment.
Meanwhile, Ms. Davis hired experts to assess the damage to her house. They told her that its structure had been undermined and it was sinking, she said. Wall fissures continue to appear and floorboards are spreading apart.
Ms. Davis said Mr. Melcher was so infuriated by her persistence that he threatened her. He denies that account.
"I have been pleasant to her even when she stopped speaking to me," he said. "I will continue to be pleasant to her. I even shoveled her walk when it snowed [recently]."
Mr. Melcher, a former tax attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, now works at a private firm in the District. He represents ANC 1B02.
Ms. Davis also is suing Mr. Melcher's wife, Lynette; the unlicensed contractor who performed the work, Eric Frolia; and a Virginia-based architect, Sukhwinder S. Ruprai.
Mr. Ruprai yesterday called Ms. Davis' story "bull" and said the cracks in her house were not the result of construction on Mr. Melcher's house. "That is not true," he said about the charges against Mr. Melcher, Mr. Frolia, himself and his two companies. He also said he had not visited either house in 18 months.
"These are neighbors who maybe had something against each other. With neighbors, sometimes little things get out of hand."
But another neighbor said privately that he believes Mr. Melcher should take responsibility for what the renovation has done to Ms. Davis' house. "He tried to do it on the cheap and it got [messed] up," he said. "So fix it."


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