Diann Burns Accuses Contractor of Racism

Steve Patterson, Chicago Sun-Times, May 1, 2006

Chicago’s highest-paid television news personality claims a contractor who designed and helped build her $3 million Lincoln Park mansion skimped on luxuries and did shoddy work because she is black.

Diann Burns, top news anchor at WBBM-Channel 2, recently filed suit against Chicago-based Metzler/Hull Development Corp., demanding at least $600,000 on claims of fraud and discrimination.

She and her husband, talent agent Marc Watts, list 84 complaints about their 5,752-square-foot home on North Burling Street—from the angle of the garage floor not being right to chipped mahogany doors being installed.

In the lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court, they also complain about the lack of a drip pan in one of three air conditioning units, stairs that are a quarter inch off and that have a piece of limestone jutting out awkwardly, and stairway lighting installed improperly, creating “an unsightly appearance” for such a prestigious home.

Company plans to countersue

There are also complaints that their garage was not sealed properly—giving them fears of carbon monoxide poisoning—and duct and wall work done so poorly that they have endured water damage.

The couple says Metzler/Hull cut corners, thinking a black couple wouldn’t notice. The suit, however, does not say what leads Burns and Watts to believe that.

The company, through attorney Karen Layng, vehemently denies it did shoddy work or that it is racist, adding a countersuit is planned against Burns and Watts for their “violative and wrongful conduct.”

The company “is extremely disappointed that Mr. Watts and Ms. Burns have refused to pay the full contract balance due to the contractor, including ordering extras they did not pay for,” Layng said.

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