I can't put my finger on it, but something just isn't right with this scenario.

1 - Most jurisdictions require permits whenever electrical, plumbing, or structural work is done. Basically, anything that is not "finish" work, such as paint or flooring requires a permit. The only way to know for certain is to ask the building department.
2 - Something isn't jiving with what you say needs to be done and what you say the electrician is telling you.I would highly recommend you consult with at least one if not several more electricians before continuing.