Council Excuses Holiday Inn’s $9,000 Fine as ‘One-Time Exception’

La Mesa hotel will have to pay only $628.44 to the city, as a prorated fine of being only two days late on its Transient Occupancy Tax for the third quarter of 2012.

Perhaps still feeling a bit of the Christmas Spirit in the second council meeting of the new year, the La Mesa City Council Tuesday night approved an appeal from a local hotel, excusing a delinquency fine that would have netted more than $9,000 to the city.

Instead, the Holiday Inn La Mesa will have to pay only $628.44 to the city, as a prorated fine of being only two days late on its Transient Occupancy Tax for the third quarter of 2012.

The hotel’s general manger, Gary Comeaux, who had only been at the La Mesa location as GM for two weeks when the payment was due, said that in the transition into the new position, the payment was inadvertently sent late, postmarked Nov. 2 when it was due on Oct. 31.

Comeaux told the council that there was no attempt to not pay the TOT, it was merely an administrative oversight.

“To penalize a hotel $10,000 which is ultimately going to come out of staff labor, is in my opinion unfair,” said Comeaux. “I respect the statues, I respect the codes, but I also hope that just as in the court of law, there’s exceptions to the rules.

“The facts are we changed the management, we had the check cut, we had every intent to pay.”

An original motion to waive the entire fee of $9,246.70 – which according to he Municipal Code is a flat 10 percent rate of the total TOT – was deadlocked at 2-2, with Vice Mayor Mark Arapostathis and councilmember Ernie Ewin rejecting the motion. In the end, the council granted a one-time exception, and unanimously approved a motion to take the entire fine and prorate it only for the days that it was deemed delinquent. In turn, the hotel only has to pay a little more than $600.

Sarah Waller-Bullock, the city’s Director of Finance, said that records (which only go back to 2005) indicate that the Holiday Inn La Mesa had never been delinquent on its TOT payment to the city. In fact, she said that there have only been three hotels in the last nine years that had been delinquent. In those cases, all were delinquent by more than 2 days.

The council also decided that with Mayor Art Madrid being absent, that it will hold off on adopting any of the proposed amendments to the city’s travel and expenses policy until the next council meeting.

The reform has been discussed in the last two city council meetings. Among the proposed amendments to the policy include: 1) full advanced disclosure/request for public funds travel submitted to the council for approval; 2) a written travel/funding request submitted to the council no later than three regularly scheduled meetings prior to the event; 3) a written report about the conference to be publicly provided to the council at the time the agenda is made public – not during the meeting; and 4) written public reports / action taken to be made a permanent part  of the meeting minutes.

In other council news…

Applications and interviews to fill vacant seat on a number of the city’s boards and commissions were submitted. Among those who have applied for vacancies include:

  • Aging and Veterans Commission – Eric Collins, Frances Galvin, Robert Jacoby (spoke to council
  • Environmental Sustainability Commission – April Bright, Jeffrey Bristow (spoke), Maria Hesse (spoke), Lisa Mansfield, Stuart Striker, Genevieve Suzuki
  • Personal Appeals Board – Eric Collins
  • Planning Commission – Noah Alvey (spoke), La Mesa city council candidates Patrick Dean (spoke) and Shannon O’Dunn (spoke), and La Mesa Chamber head Mary England.

The applications and interviews will be reviewed in the next two weeks, and  appointments to the various commissions will be announced at the next scheduled council meeting.

No Bad Government January 24, 2013 at 06:49 AM
Kudos to the City Council for being just and fair about the penalty. The City should not be out there punishing non habitual offenders. Waiving or reducing penalties is not abnormal as most credit card companies and lenders will offer a one time waiver of late fees to customers and the City should look at each situation on its own merits and not try to set a precedent making anyone pay who is late just because others have paid in the past. The discussion was well thought out and in the end, an equitable resolution was produced. The bigger story here is how former City Council Candidate and current Planning Commission Liberal candidate Patrick Dean stood up with anger in his voice and suggested this business who has never been late before and was only two days late in postmarking its payment and who contributes over $300,000 annually to the City coffers in TOT tax and takes the risk of opening it's doors every day and employ our citizens should have paid another nearly $10,000 in a penalty! Ah yes Patrick, those evil corporations. Let's take them for everything they have. Would you have felt the same way if this was a Vegan Restaurant serving only Fair Trade items to customers who only rode bikes to the restaurant? I supposed you also want the City to pay the $1 million sewer fine versus use the money to actually fix the sewers!
Sara Kazemi January 24, 2013 at 04:29 PM
...I want a restaurant that serves fair trade items to people who bike in. I'm not vegan though. I would prefer organic foods and pastured, grass-fed beef. Oh man. That would be awesome.
Honest La Mesan January 25, 2013 at 01:33 AM
Dean kind of sounded like you Mr. Smylie when you address the council! I guess it takes "One to Know One".


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