PENDLETON — The Pendleton City Council will become a jury for a day to decide the fate of The Marigold Hotel.

Following a shooting at the 105 S.E. Court Ave. hotel, the city sent Marigold owner Shivam Patel a letter notifying him it would suspend and then revoke his business license. In accordance with city law, Patel is appealing staff’s decision to the city council at its Tuesday, Dec. 7 meeting.

In the Nov. 15 letter from the city to Patel, Finance Director Linda Carter wrote the city intended to suspend and revoke his license after the Nov. 9 shooting.

“Additionally, there is record of considerable activity at your hotel which violates law and you have previously been notified by the Pendleton Police Department of those conditions at that property,” she wrote. “In July of 2021, you entered into an agreement with the Pendleton police chief to operate this business in compliance with the law and with special conditions designed to prevent criminal activity on the premises. You have not complied with the terms of that agreement.”

In an interview after the city suspended Marigold’s license, Pendleton Police Chief Chuck Byram said the hotel had established a pattern of attracting criminal activity and the business’ management was “complicit in said criminal activity.”

The suspension went into effect immediately while the revocation is set to start Dec. 16, pending the appeal.

Byram declined to say how the Marigold was complicit in the crimes, and Patel in an interview defended the hotel, adding he had taken several steps to reduce crime at the business and just needed support from the city.

The city’s business license ordinance allows business owners who have had their business licenses suspended or revoked the option of appealing the city’s decision to the city council. Patel exercised that option and hired some help.

During the appeal process, Patel will be represented by Jordan Ramis, a Lake Oswego law firm. In a Nov. 18 letter to the city, attorney Matthew Lowe provided a timeline of events and laid the groundwork for Patel’s defense.

The owner’s timeline

Lowe wrote that Patel and his family’s company, Mahantam Hospitality, bought the Marigold in November 2019, purchasing a hotel that had been affiliated with the Knights Inn and Howard Johnson’s franchises in the past.

After the coronavirus pandemic began in March 2020, the Marigold signed a contract with the Community Action Program of East Central Oregon to provide rooms to the unhoused. The agreement was meant to be mutually beneficial: CAPECO could provide Pendleton’s homeless residents with a place where they could be socially distant, and the Marigold would get a source of revenue at a time when tourism was cratering.

“The hotel’s contract with CAPECO ended and shortly thereafter, perhaps due to the population of guests referred by CAPECO, problems started occurring,” Lowe wrote about May 2020.

According to Lowe, the hotel’s general manager, who goes unnamed, began renting out rooms to locals on a weekly basis, many of whom were considered “disruptive individuals.” The hotel owners soon ended the practice, but in September 2020, the Blue Mountain Enforcement Narcotics Team, an inter-agency group that includes several local police departments, the Oregon State Police, FBI and Army National Guard, conducted a raid on the Marigold.

At the time, Patel assured Byram that he would remove all problem guests from the hotel and would become more restrictive on who he employed and provided rooms to.

The timeline then jumps ahead to s 2021, a time when Patel allowed the general manager to hire her daughter as a staff member. Lowe wrote the daughter was a good employee, but she was in a relationship with a “convicted felon” who did unspecified “bad conduct” unbeknownst to Patel.

In April, the city sent Patel a letter declaring the Marigold a chronic nuisance and in May, Patel emailed Byram to announce he had fired the general manager and her daughter and installed a new security camera system in addition to a policy that would prohibit the hotel from selling rooms to locals.

Lowe wrote that Patel personally stayed at the hotel for more than three weeks in June and July after another incident, and according to Lowe, Byram acknowledged that conditions had improved. Lowe wrote there were two more incidents at or near the hotel in late October, but the Marigold couldn’t confirm whether they involved guests because police never informed management.

The shooting and the hearing

The next entry on the timeline was about the Nov. 9 shooting. Police allege Steven Moses Enko of Pendleton was in the vicinity of the hotel when he shot at a car as it was driving away, resulting in the injury of a 17-year-old boy. Enko now faces attempted murder and several other charges.

In Patel’s account, the suspect was visiting someone who was staying at the hotel rather than a guest. According to Lowe’s letter, Enko visited the guest, left the guest’s room to break into another room where “he engaged in his unlawful conduct,” returned to the original room to hide the gun and then attempted to hide in the hotel’s laundry room. According to Lowe, the manager quickly evacuated the laundry room and notified police.

“(It) is unfair to allege that these events were in the control of the hotel or that the hotel’s management or operational practices contributed to these events in any way,” Lowe wrote. “While all hotels strive to provide a safe and clean environment for hotel guests, there are times when unfortunate events occur regardless of the practices and policies in place. At this hotel, while we do not argue that certain adverse conditions existed and occurred at the hotel in 2020 and in the first part of 2021, the hotel reasonably addressed those issues. The recent events that have occurred at or near the hotel are quite simply unrelated to those prior events. As such, they do not warrant suspension of the hotel’s business license or a determination that the hotel is a chronic nuisance.”

City Attorney Nancy Kerns said the hearing over the business license will be unlike other council actions, such as passing ordinances and approving budgets. Both city staff and Patel or his counsel will present their arguments before council members, who will have the opportunity to ask questions before making a decision. The general public will not be able to participate.

The council meeting will be Tuesday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m. at the council chambers in city hall, 500 S.W. Dorion Ave. The meeting also will be available online live via Zoom at bit.ly/3iaPLbo.

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