Interesting article regarding the Bhanji's http://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/edmonton-motel-owners-fined-140000-for-ignoring-health-inspectors
EDMONTON – An Edmonton motel has been slapped with $140,000 in fines for flouting provincial health inspectors for more than two years.
The owners and operators of the Royal Scot Motel and RV Park, a 27-suite motel on Stony Plain Road, were sentenced Friday after pleading guilty to 41 violations of the Public Health Act, including ignoring the orders of an executive officer for 801 days.
“It’s a large fine, but there were an awful lot of charges here,” said Ivan Bernardo, the lawyer representing Alberta Health Services. “The court certainly sent a very loud and clear message to these landlords that you can’t ignore the Public Health Act, and you certainly cannot ignore orders of health inspectors.”
Seattle-based Alkarim Bhanji and Diallah Bhanji direct the Calgary company that owns the Royal Scot. The three-building facility is managed by their Edmonton-based relative, Mohamed Bhanji.
Violations were obvious even before AHS inspectors walked up dangerous and uneven steps leading up to the motel, according to an agreed statement of facts based on 21 inspections between April 2011 and October 2012.
Weeds outside grew wild and tall. Garbage and building supplies were piled around the buildings. The roof and exterior of the buildings were in disrepair and numerous windows were broken. Insulation remained exposed and eavestroughs and drainage spouts were missing.
Inside was even worse. Electrical fixtures hung by exposed wires, outlets and switches were missing cover plates. Smoke alarms were non-functional or missing. Water leakage had caused rot and mould in the ceilings and walls. Door frames, locks and furnaces weren’t working.
The bathrooms were also problematic. Plumbing fixtures were corroded and unfinished bathrooms didn’t have working ventilation. In one unoccupied room, inspectors noted the obvious odour of sewage backup on the floor. The RV park bathrooms were also full of mould and missing chunks of drywall.
An environmental officer issued an order for repair in June 2011. When those repairs weren’t yet completed a year later, the facility was order closed and vacated. By October 2012, inspectors found many of the needed repairs still hadn’t been completed. The sworn information charge sheet filed that month lists 144 specific infractions and is 46 pages long.
The Bhanjis initially appealed the order, Bernardo said, then tried a number of tactics to avoid making repairs. A year after the motel was ordered closed, monthly tenants were still living at the motel as rooms in the facility were gutted and fixed.
Last September, public health authorities and city officials allowed the Bhanjis to reopen the west side of the building. The rest of the hotel has since been reopened.
The Crown wanted more than $200,000 in fines, nearly 10 times the amount asked by the defence, but Bernardo said the total still sends “the right message.” Staff at the hotel declined to comment.
The Calgary-based numbered company owned by the couple, 863056 Alberta Ltd., was fined $97,000 for a guilty plea on 41 charges. The bulk of that amount relates to the first charge — ignoring an executive officer — which carries a maximum fine of $100 per day.
Alkarim Bhanji is a chiropractor near Seattle and has ties to several hotel management companies, according to several online investor profiles. He and his wife were each fined $20,000 for ignoring the officer’s orders.
Mohamed Bhanji was fined $3,000. The Edmonton man previously made headlines before the 2001 World Championships when he protested a city tax hike by cancelling 45 reservations at the Roadrunner Motel, the Calgary Trail motel he still co-owns and manages.
The Royal Scot Motel was also the site of a high profile arrest in 2006, when a B.C. man holed up there after stealing more than $54,000 from 10 banks, all to feed a $1,200-a-day crack habit.