A Delaware County private contractor claims she’s been bilked out of $40,000 by her client — who happens to be a Delaware County judge.

Bose Houser, owner of Rocks + Cornerstones, a woman-owned, Christian-owned firm, has filed a mechanics lien seeking roughly $40,000 in unpaid bills.

According to court documents, last year, Houser was hired to perform electrical, plumbing, framing, and drywall installation work on the 3,000-square-foot Swarthmore home of Democratic Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Atinuke “Tinu” Moss. Another contractor was hired to do the exterior, including the roof, siding, and windows.

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Moss and Houser entered into a contract in May for a total of $101,000. The scope of work was to include a number of construction services over the span of eight to twelve weeks. But in the weeks that followed, Houser said that the project underwent a number of setbacks: the township delayed permits, subcontractors contracted Covid-19, and Judge Tinu Moss made herself unavailable for walk-throughs and building materials approvals. She claims the judge violated the terms of the contract, including terminating it, sending her a cease-and-desist letter banning her and her subcontractors from the property entirely, and cutting off all communication.

“Rocks and Cornerstones, LLC has breached conditions in the contract… providing defective work in several areas, including but not limited to electrical, plumbing, and framing,” the letter reads. “The defective workmanship has caused significant consequential damages to the Moss family, forcing them to retain contractors to repair the substandard workmanship.”

Subsequently, Houser filed a mechanics lien in Delaware County Common Pleas Court. It claims Tinu Moss and Houser agreed to certain “upgrades and/or change orders” outside the terms of the original contract and that Moss failed to reimburse Houser almost $40,000 in work done on Moss’s property, some of which included costs for additional materials, a dumpster, and a porta-potty.

According to campaign finance reports, Moss raised upwards of $55,000 during her 2021 bid for Delaware County judge by Philadelphia-area labor unions. Before she took office, Tinu Moss represented Laborers Union Local 413 (LIUNA) in Chester as a solicitor.

I never want anyone to say that I’m just the typical contractor and that all contractors are bad.

With her strong ties to organized labor, it’s unclear why Judge Moss hired a non-union contractor to perform the work on her Swarthmore home, according to several sources who spoke on background when reached by Broad + Liberty.

Malcolm Yates, a convenor with the Delaware County Black Caucus, said it’s typical for Democrats to use union labor on major projects.

“We, as Democrats, like to use our unions and our union workers because they come from the community we represent most of the time, and sometimes they’re not just a private business, who may be well off, or they may be someone who went through the ranks of the apprenticeship and went through the union and then got their own business. We tend to trust our unions and work hand-in-hand with them, so that’s why you see more of a lend towards that.”

Several attempts to reach Moss and her attorneys for purposes of this story were unsuccessful. But Houser said that because of the pending litigation, her credit took a dive and her business is suffering.

“I couldn’t buy Christmas presents for my kids,” Houser said. “[Moss] literally put a hold on my business. I started questioning myself: Is it me? Am I the problem or am I someone they can easily take advantage of?”

On their website, Rocks + Cornerstones is described as “founded on Christian values and dedicated to transforming residential and commercial spaces into stunning works of art.” Houser says she takes that reputation seriously.

“I’m a black woman in the country trying to stand out from the stigma of contractors screwing you over. That’s why I established my business — because I never want anyone to say that I’m just the typical contractor and that all contractors are bad.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Jenny DeHuff has been a multimedia journalist for the past fifteen years in Philadelphia. Her bylines include the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, Playboy Magazine, City & State PA, and Philly Voice. She’s won multiple awards for investigative journalism. @RuffTuffDH

3 thoughts on “A contractor claims a Delco judge owes her $40K”

  1. What is this story’s purpose? Is it supposed to be a “hit” piece on Democratic Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Atinuke “Tinu” Moss? It is a little disappointing to waste time over what seems like a smear job for an everyday occurrence. A contractor filed a $40K Mechanics’ lein. Great. Anyone can read The Philadelphia Business Journal’s “Leads” section to read about the latest Lawsuits filed, Mechanics’, Municipal, and State Tax liens. $40K is often not even close to the largest amount filed each week.
    “A lien is used to guarantee payment of a debt. It’s a legal claim that a creditor can place on the debtor’s property giving them the right to a portion of those assets. Typically a lien will be placed on a high-value property such as a house or a car. In those cases, the lien holder (the lender) takes the amount due out of the proceeds when that property is sold. In some cases the lien will also come with the right to force a sale of the affected property. An unliquidated car or house doesn’t have any value to a creditor. The creditor doesn’t want to wait until you get around to selling; he wants his payment now. As a result, the creditor will often have the right to force a sale. The creditor will collect the value of the lien, and then you will keep the rest. (This addresses the adverse interest that a lien generates as, once a lien is attached, the owner is incentivized not to sell this property.)”
    Also…this story doesn’t have a single thing to do with Trump. Yikes. He really lives rent free in some people’s brains.

    1. I don’t think this is a hit piece so much as it is a call out for hypocrisy. Liens aren’t necessarily the point here either. The point is that a judge strongly advocated for union laborers in her campaign, but after she secured her bag she hired a private laborer and then did not pay them. Moss could have worked with a labor union, and that was a decent job for someone. Why private? Is it that she is trying to take advantage of someone outside of her circle of colleagues? If she went union, and a laborer had a problem, this would have never happened. Also, the work that this contractor did was phenomenal, and her page has shown the work she completed dating back to last year. The before and afters are insane. That means that this judge, who’s also only been in office for less than a year, has had a complete kitchen remodel for over a year at this point. An innocent child was robbed of a holiday. The consequences that the contractor has to bear because of Moss’ actions are the exact same consequences that Moss campaigned to fight for laborers to not have to deal with.

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