Insurance agent backs Discount Dave

By Berl Schwartz and Josh Garvey

Dave Sheets’ insurance agent staunchly defended him Tuesday, saying she was unaware of any evidence that he had set the fire that destroyed his furniture and mattress store on South Washington Avenue last month.

“My information from the claims adjustor is that the investigative unit’s testing for liquid flammables for arsontype fires turned out to be negative,” Monique Goch, of Shinberg Agency in East Lansing, said. Moreover, she added, “I have not been given information as the insurance agent that there have been any other questionable portions to this claim.”

Lansing Fire Marshal Phil Sabon said Tuesday the May 3 fire was “intentionally set” and that its investigation was continuing. Earlier, the cause of the fire had been classified as “undetermined” but officials had described it as “suspicious.” Sabon spoke at a press conference in front of where Buy Rite Furniture Store had stood at 1121 South Washington.

At the same press conference, Sheets said the insurance company has cleared him of arson and that he doesn’t believe the fire was set.

He called the city “incompetent” for continuing its investigation, which he said was damaging his reputation.

In a telephone interview after the press conference, Goch said Sheets has been insured through Zurich Insurance Co. for six years and with Goch for three.

“Mr. Sheets has been completely cooperative on an investigation of his personal history, cellular history and business and finances. We can’t ask for anything more than that. Same with his staff,” she said.

said Zurich’s investigation for flammable liquids was completed within
five to seven days of the fire.

“The insurance company to date did not
find any questionable point of origin,” she added.

She said
she could not comment on whether both investigations could be correct.

“I can tell you that in my experience with insuring Dave and his
accounts under my agency, I’ve never had a questionable claim situation
or a large claim of any substance.”

Goch said she was aware
that there had been a fire at another Buy Rite location Sheets owned.
“If you have a questionable claim, in the state of Michigan, they can
choose not to insure you. That was a long time ago. I wasn’t his
agent,” she said.

Later, she called back to say that police were aware
that Sheets had received threats this year from individuals for
canceling a party at his Cadillac Club, located next to the fire site,
after police had asked Sheets to do so. Sheets’ liquor license had been
in jeopardy because of problems at the club.

Goch also said Sheets had
decreased his coverage this spring.

Asked about complaints
from other business owners that the sidewalk was still littered with
debris, Goch said, “The insurance company can’t pay out on the claim,
which includes coverage of debris removal, until the city Fire
Department makes a final determination and releases the findings.”