We’ve reached that point in the political campaign where folks start airing the dirty laundry – and they send you anonymous emails telling you where all the offending clothes hampers are located.
And then, much like a scavenging bear, the reporter trudges out to check out all the unlocked internet dumpsters.
The target this week: Mammoth Lakes Town Council candidate Deb Pierrel.
The accusation: Questionable business ethics.
As Deb holds herself out to be a pro-business candidate, we deem this worthy of investigation.
The research: A check of Douglas County, Nevada tax records and a follow-up conversation with a Dougl;as County employee confirmed that Cle Hospitality (Pierrel’s hospitality firm) owes approximately $24,000 in back property taxes and carries a current account balance of $40,000 for its Historian Inn property in Gardnerville.
Cle Hospitality’s other property, the Avalon Lodge in South Lake Tahoe, currently owes about $20,000 in property taxes.
In addition, there were approximately six claims filed by vendors in El Dorado County for non-payment over the course of the past three years. One vendor, HD Supply Facilities (aka Home Depot) won a $23,000 judgment against Cle Hospitality. Another vendor, Anna Lance, who owns Don Lance Heating and Fireplaces in South Lake Tahoe, spoke to The Sheet about Pierrel.
“I wouldn’t vote for her. I had very bad dealings with them [Cle Hospitality]. We had a signed contract, but these girls [Pierrel and partner Katy Donoghue] never had any money.”
“And even though we won at small claims, we never saw the money.
They did a corporate restructure … it would’ve taken me five years to collect. There were so many of us.”
Lance estimates she and her husband collected $500 out of some $3,000 owed.
“We’re a mom and pop business,” she explained. “We can’t take losses like that.” Lance added that she believes Pierrel didn’t stand up for her own responsibility [for the debt].
“I can’t imagine how she can be a candidate for office,” concluded Lance. “You gotta learn from your mistakes. I don’t think she has … People need to know her work practices.”
The rebuttal: I spoke with Pierrel at her office in Mammoth on Thursday. She readily acknowledged that the past three years have been very difficult. “A three-year startup in three drought years,” she lamented. But, she said, “There’s nothing I’ve done where I wasn’t caring, or where I was disingenuous … Everybody that I owe money to matters to me.”
She said that in each case, she has reached a settlement with the vendor and established a payment plan.
“And I should add … that Frederic (husband) and I are so personally fiscally responsible that we had savings so my personal debt/bills sustained us through this [time] with Fred not working and me not pulling an income from the company. Sadly, though, we have to rebuild our savings too … from zero.”
“So many businesses have struggled through the past three years, not only with drought, but fires like the Rim (see Rim story).”
She said that the silver lining to this trying experience is that it may make her more adept and more able to connect woth local business owners who are struggling. “I know firsthand about ways to help them.”
As for the back property taxes, Pierrel said, “At a certain point, you have to ask yourself, ‘Do I pay that tax, or buy the toilet paper for the hotel?’”
You buy the toilet paper, and hope to survive in business long enough to pay down the taxes.
Best Town Tourney … Let’s kick Durango’s ass
From old pal Lara Kirkner at Mammoth Lakes Tourism:
“Mammoth Lakes is in the running for Outside Magazine’s Best Town Tournament and we need your help! If you love Mammoth, please go to the following link, vote for Mammoth Lakes, and then SHARE with anyone and everyone you can. The first round of voting lasts from today until May 19 and we are going head-to-head with Durango, CO in the first bracket. Click on the link to learn more and VOTE! outsideonline.com/besttowns2014
Renewable Energy Workshop
Dave Harvey’s got another one scheduled for May 23 starting at 10 a.m. at Snowcreek Athletic Club. Learn more about ground source heat pumps and ways to achieve 100 percent financing for renewables