The founder and head of a San Diego solar company that angered customers after abruptly closing its doors last month faces felony charges accusing him of stalking an ex-girlfriend.
Daniel Joseph Sullivan, 44, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three felony counts of stalking and six misdemeanor counts of disobeying a restraining order. Court records show that an ex-girlfriend had obtained a restraining order against Sullivan earlier this year.
If convicted of all charges, he faces a potential sentence of five years, eight months in prison.
Sullivan is the founder and CEO of Sullivan Solar Power, one of the leading installers of rooftop solar systems in the greater San Diego region since 2004.
But about six weeks ago, the company shut down operations. Customers complained the company was not returning phone calls, emails or text messages. Likewise, Sullivan has not returned messages left over several weeks from the Union-Tribune asking about the status of his company.
Jail records indicate U.S. Marshals arrested Sullivan on Monday, and he remained in custody Wednesday in lieu of $1 million. Sullivan is due back in court Dec. 3 for the judge to review the bail amount. If Sullivan does post bail, he must wear a GPS monitor, according to Deputy District Attorney Christopher Campbell.
According to the criminal complaint, Sullivan is accused of stalking an ex-girlfriend between July 2020 and early May of this year, including after a restraining order went into effect at the end of March. The complaint also alleges recent violations of the order, four of them between Nov. 10 and Nov. 18. He was arrested four days later.
The attorney representing Sullivan in the restraining order matter said he might represent Sullivan in the criminal case as well.
“We look forward to receiving the reports and discovery, and letting the court know how his acts don’t give rise to criminal liability,” attorney Vikas Bajaj said.
Bajaj also said his client went from “the point of rubbing two nickels together to running a successful multi-million dollar business,” and “has done a lot of good for the community and those who know him.”
The criminal complaint does not lay out the details of the allegations. However, the named victim in the stalking case had obtained the restraining order in civil court earlier this year.
In court documents filed in March, she said Sullivan had been previously convicted in a misdemeanor domestic violence case in San Diego, and that he threatened and stalked her even after a judge barred him from contacting her in 2017.
She said she moved to a new residence, and works remotely to avoid him.
“I have ignored his threats in the past, but this time his threats and behavior have escalated and I am terrified he will harm me, if not kill me,” she wrote.
It’s not clear what happened to Sullivan’s company in recent weeks. Cubicles at the company’s office in Miramar are empty and a fleet of about 35 brightly colored Sullivan Solar Power vehicles in the front and back parking lots remain unmoved, collecting dust.
As of Wednesday, a search of court records does not show Sullivan Solar Power filing for bankruptcy.
As company CEO, Sullivan kept a high profile, advocating for the rooftop solar industry at news conferences and civic events around San Diego.
He touted starting Sullivan Solar Power as a one-man outfit with $2,500 in the bank, growing it to employ more than 150 workers and in media advertisements declared his company was “leading the solar energy revolution.”
Rooftop solar installations can run in the tens of thousands of dollars and Sullivan Solar Power’s abrupt closing has left many customers feeling left in the lurch.
Some have installations that have not been completed and others have had liens placed on their properties after subcontractors hired by Sullivan Solar Power did not get paid. Still other customers worry about the status of their installation’s warranty or the battery systems that are in the process of being recalled.
Barb Ferreira had Sullivan Solar Power put in a $48,000 system at her five-bedroom home in Lakeside in 2006 and said Daniel Sullivan came out to her property to check on the installation.
“That’s shocking and disappointing,” she said of Sullivan’s court appearance. “Obviously something went wrong somewhere, personally professionally or both.”
On the business end, Ferreira said Sullivan Solar Power was “outstanding” when her system was first installed but in the past year she had a lot of trouble getting phone calls returned. Ferreira said she spent an extra $1,200 to extend her warranty.
“Those of us who have systems up and running and paid for now have to find someone new to service the system,” she said. “For me, it’s been, oh wow, you’re on your own.”
Lawsuits against the company have been filed in San Diego Superior Court and the Contractors State License Board suspended Sullivan Solar Power’s license three weeks ago. The license board cited a case in which a homeowner in Jamul took the company to small claims court, won a $5,065 judgment in April but did not get paid.
A review by the Union-Tribune found that Sullivan Solar Power racked up $19,000 in fines by the license board in the past year for five separate citations.
The board also sent a letter of admonishment to CEO Sullivan on Dec. 31, 2020. In the copy obtained by the Union-Tribune, the reference to exactly why Sullivan received the letter of admonishment was redacted.
In addition, the board is investigating other six complaints against Sullivan Solar Power for “probable” violations. As per board rules, it keeps the identities of those making complaints confidential.
Union-Tribune staff writer Greg Moran contributed to this story.