Aurora motel owners' lawyer criticizes criminal charges
The attorney representing a Bothell couple whose motels on or near Aurora Avenue have been targeted by Seattle officials is questioning one of the city's tactics — bringing multiple criminal charges for failure to pay wage and business taxes.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The attorney representing a Bothell couple whose crime-plagued motels on or near Aurora Avenue have been targeted by Seattle officials is questioning one of the city's tactics — bringing multiple criminal charges for allegedly failing to pay wage and business taxes.
Normally, such cases are resolved through noncriminal proceedings, said Mark Blair, responding to the misdemeanor charges brought against Dean and Jill Inman.
"I've never seen anybody charged" for those violations, Blair said, declining to speculate on the city's motives.
But city attorneys say the charges are not unusual.
Moreover, the city has made clear its intentions: It is using every tool to curtail criminal activity at the motels, which officials say has included drug dealing, prostitution, robberies and assaults. Last year alone, there were 460 police calls to the couple's motels: Wallingford Inn, Fremont Inn, Isabella Motel, Italia Motel and Seattle Motor Inn.
The city was preparing to cut the electricity to the businesses this week when the Inmans paid a minimum amount of $11,000 in response to overdue utility bills, the city said.
Last week, the City Attorney's Office filed 152 criminal charges alleging tax violations against the Inmans.
City officials also are working to have business licenses for the properties revoked for failure to comply with tax requirements, said Alex Fryer, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Nickels. Seattle Municipal Court records show the Inmans have been charged with failing to pay quarterly business taxes and failing to pay an hourly employees tax. Not all the charges have been entered into the court's computer system because of delays in recording the information.
Blair said he is awaiting police reports to determine the dates and amounts of the alleged tax violations.
From what he has seen, he said, the charges relate to a few thousand dollars in taxes.
If money is owed, it will be paid in due course, Blair said.
But for now, Blair said, he is mystified why the city didn't initiate a civil action.
Blair, a former prosecutor, said criminal charges should be a last resort, but the city reversed the process and has "vastly overcharged" the couple, he said. He also noted that Jill Inman has nothing to do with running the business.
Fryer said the couple had been given many opportunities to pay the taxes.
In addition, he said, the couple's unwillingness to deal with crime problems has driven the city's examination of their utility bills, taxes and business licenses.
"They handed up the hammer," Fryer said. "They gave us the tools by not being good citizens."
Blair said he has just gotten the case and didn't know if the couple had been given opportunities to pay.
Ruth Bowman, spokeswoman for City Attorney Tom Carr, said her office had "never seen a case this severe."
Among the charges, Bowman said, is that the couple have failed to pay quarterly business taxes since January 2008. She said her office brought four criminal tax cases against others last year and 22 the year before.
As for any motives stemming from Carr's bid for re-election in November, Bowman said the directive to consider criminal charges came from the mayor's office.
Seattle Times researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which also includes information from Times archives.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or email@example.com.
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