Lodging Association chair calls Council decision “scary precedent”

The Town Council faces another TOT appeal Wednesday night.

The Town Council faces another TOT appeal Wednesday night.

The Chairman of the Mammoth Lakes Lodging Association called the Town Council’s recent decision to forgive fines and penalties on unpaid transient occupancy tax a “scary precedent.” John Morris said the Town Council needs to take a good look at what they’re doing.

In February, the Council heard an appeal from second homeowners, Kevin and Carolynn Cozen. Town staff said they failed to pay $15,000 in Transient Occupancy Tax, illegally rented their single family home and should pay fines and penalties of $7,000 as a result. The Cozens claimed they called the Town Office and were told single family homes did not have to pay TOT. They could not say who they talked to. The Cozens did say they got the idea that they should charge TOT so they did. They just never paid it to the Town. Three members of the Town Council voted to let the Cozens off the hook of fines and penalties. Mayor Matthew Lehman and Councilman Michael Raimondo strongly disagreed.

Lodging Association Chair John Morris pointed to history. He said two and a half years ago the Town Council asked the Lodging community to help with TOT enforcement and control of illegal renting. He said Lodging, the Town Finance Department, Tourism and the Mayor worked out fines and rules. Then, Morris said, the first appeal they got, the Town Council folded. Morris said, “This was their chance to send a message. The Cozens admitted renting their property. They got caught.”

Morris said there was no real evidence to back up the Cozens’ claims that someone in the Town Offices told them they didn’t have to pay bed tax. He said, “It was an excellent chance for the Town Council to set the tone for future cases.” Morris added that the Cozens escaped fines when all of the lodge owners who pay TOT get fined, said Morris, “if we’re five minutes late.” He said lodges are continually audited and regulated.

Morris also pointed out that people who rent their homes illegally do not, as a result, pay for snow removal and other Town services. He estimated that the Cozens likely made around $120,000 in gross rent and in the end paid some $15,000 in TOT and no fines or penalties. Morris said other cases are coming up. He said he understands at least a half million in fines are pending in cases that are still out there. Said Morris, “I hope the Town Council takes a good look at what they’re doing. They have set a scary precedent.” Morris did say he is neutral on the issue of single family home rentals. He said he would like to see a study done to show the net positives.

Meanwhile, at Wednesday night’s Town Council meeting, Joe Mueller of Austria Hof Slopeside Rentals will appeal a $157 fine the Town charged him. In his case, he tried to pay his TOT bill the day it was due, December 31st, but the Town Offices were closed and so was the Post Office. He delivered his payment to Councilman Michael Raimondo who handed it over to the Finance Department on January 2nd. Mueller disagrees with the fine.

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47 Comments
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SierraFan
SierraFan
8 years ago

If you collect TOT then you know the law! If you collect TOT then you know it should be paid! If you collect TOT and don’t pay then why? Because you know you’ll be caught and be fined! Plain and simple. Yet 3/5’s of the town’s CM’s had their head… Read more »

Curious
Curious
8 years ago
Reply to  SierraFan

Isn’t that the same as collecting sales tax and then underreporting your sales?

Tom
Tom
8 years ago

The Cozens collected the TOT and put it in their bank account rather than paying it to the town. Their defense is ridiculous – if they were told that they didn’t need to pay the TOT, then how in the world could they get the impression that they should collect… Read more »

What the ...?
What the ...?
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

Wait a minute! Doesn’t Wood represent those in that property rental business?
Why didn’t he recuse himself?

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  What the ...?

Wood made it clear he does not represent anyone for TOT violations. He did recuse himself
on the Austria Hof TOT penalty because he represents them on something else.
Benett Kessler

Strange bedfellows & TOT
Strange bedfellows & TOT
8 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

Strange bedfellows by any other name … I once knew of a councilman who accepted monies from a source and was quoted as saying, “…sure I took the money. But that doesn’t mean I’m influenced one way or another by how I voted on the subject.” And I don’t think… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago

That’s the same line countless congress people and senators use.
BK

Jake Steel
Jake Steel
8 years ago

I am a local and what they did SUCKS and if they lived here I would go over to their house and tell them that. How is that?

Jake Steel
Jake Steel
8 years ago

This town counsel is a total fail, every time I see you people out in Mammoth or anywhere I am going to YELL FAIL!

Please people do not ever vote for John Eastman or that Clown Woods again!

FAILED LEADERSHIP

Mammothite
Mammothite
8 years ago
Reply to  Jake Steel

Too many years on the council means too many fingers in too many pies. We’ll never know what our elected officials receive from their business pals. Until it is 100% illegal to accept one thin dime from any source – the system we have in place will be a corrupt… Read more »

too much
too much
8 years ago
Reply to  Jake Steel

I think that is ~Truth Bennett…I’m so sorry for Mammoth and Bishop. Bishop is like living in Marshall law at times with a bit of Hope, but then again. If I just could retire and enjoy life here and not the Drama. I also Believe that people hear little bits… Read more »

Dark times
Dark times
8 years ago
Reply to  too much

These just might be the darkest times in our long, long history. And like the Tower of Babel story, nobody can understand what anybody else is talking about. Best to be frugal, keep a low profile, stay away from the city … and by all means – Don’t be a… Read more »

ferdinand lopez
ferdinand lopez
8 years ago

they got caught,they need to pay, just like the i.r.s

Don't let 'em off the hook
Don't let 'em off the hook
8 years ago

Time for a full-blown Grand Jury Investigation.

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago

Quoting a long-time,local and unidentified legal source, “If you believe in the Grand Jury, you also
wait up for the Easter Bunny.”
BK

Any suggestions?
Any suggestions?
8 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

Any other ideas to hold elected officials feet to the fire, Benett?
It’s sometimes an eternity between elections.

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago

Yes. When citizens speak out, news media can quote them and get the public issues churning as they should.
That can impact the behavior of some.
BK

Curious
Curious
8 years ago

It takes a lot of nerve for some of these post to call out Kevin and Carolynn Cozen. The fact is the only difference between them and us, is the getting caught part. Have any of you ever done or are you currently doing anything illegal? The hypocrisy of some… Read more »

scott lawson
scott lawson
8 years ago
Reply to  Curious

Hey Curious, I notice that you don’t put your real name on your post. I did because it is what I believe in. I believe they should be fined if it is in accordance to the law. And any other second homeowners that haven’t followed the law should also be… Read more »

Curious
Curious
8 years ago
Reply to  scott lawson

Hey Scott very astute,the Cozens were fined according to the law, they adjudicated their case and should be left alone period.

You have a problem with my opinion? So be it.

My name is none of your business, rest assured it’s not the village idiot!

Corruption in A Small Town
Corruption in A Small Town
8 years ago

Ignorance is no excuse. I’m betting that The Cozens are just playing stupid, after all they know “a lawyer” and who is that lawyer….? Oh, of course now I remember. This is no doubt corruption in our small town. I’d like to call on the resignation of a few council… Read more »

SierraFan
SierraFan
8 years ago

One thing here is that you would think that the Cozen’s would’ve no doubt approached a rental company in town to see what the costs would to be on a rental program and no doubt were told that a single family home is illegal to rent? If not they are… Read more »

sierragrl
sierragrl
8 years ago

How could a TOT be assessed on a single family home short term rental when single family home rentals are illegal? this makes no sense. they can’t assess a tax on an illegal use. The answer is NO TOT should have been assessed or collected, however, the Cozens should have… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  sierragrl

We are told that Town legal advice is that TOT has to be collected even from rentals in zones that don’t allow transient rentals.
BK

MK
MK
8 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

Benett, The town attorney is incorrect on his assumptions and stance. Sometimes people are wrong. That is so in this case. The TOT ordinance is pretty clear. Here is the current definition. “Transient occupancy facility” means any place, space or structure, or portion of any place, space or structure, which… Read more »

L
L
8 years ago

They ended up paying some of the bed tax but probably not all of it ; plus no penalties or interest.

Chip Chipperson
Chip Chipperson
8 years ago

oops, its 6,000,000,000$ to the future terrorists.

Jeremiah's stance
Jeremiah's stance
8 years ago

Yeah I hear that one Chip! So we will continue to pay the same amount of taxes or more, get vital services to us cut as we pay the same amount of taxes, but at least the mega rich got a tax break right? So I wonder when trickle down… Read more »

Chip Chipperson
Chip Chipperson
8 years ago

A broke town makes a law to shore up their TOT and doesnt enforce it . It remind me of the fake “crisis” of sequestration……and then we give $250,000,000 to the future terrorists in Egypt, $6,000,000,000,000 to the future terrorists of Syria,DHS buys 2500 armored personel carriers for DOMESTIC use.all… Read more »

Poli-Sci 101
Poli-Sci 101
8 years ago

I know, I know, Chip …
Vote Republican and all will be fine and dandy, Right?
: >

Chip Chipperson
Chip Chipperson
8 years ago
Reply to  Poli-Sci 101

I dont know Poli,but the direction we are heading is not the right one.Is party loyalty more important than the good of the country?The people we are putting in power care more about self preservation than the good of the country. Is that right?Apparently you must think so. .Believe me… Read more »

More millionaires will be made
More millionaires will be made
8 years ago

I hear ya, Chip. People don’t want to hear this (especially those whose property value is not skyrocketing), but we are entering the early stages of Great Depression II. A lot of people are going to get hurt and the once again (as in the Great Depression I) the filthy… Read more »

Paranoia in American Politics
Paranoia in American Politics
8 years ago

American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years, we have seen angry minds at work, mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated, in the Goldwater movement, how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But,… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago

Why not focus on something you can do something about? Your own behaviors and attitudes, relationships with neighbors and communities,
your own local politics and elections.
Benett Kessler

Tourbillon
Tourbillon
8 years ago

Paranoia, your handle – is it intentionally ironic or did you just blunder unwittingly into humorous satire?

Movements of suspicious discontent
Movements of suspicious discontent
8 years ago
Reply to  Tourbillon

The Paranoid Style in American Politics is an essay by American historian Richard J. Hofstadter, first published in Harper’s Magazine in November 1964; it served as the title essay of a book by the author in the same year. Written at a time when Senator Barry Goldwater had won the… Read more »

SierraFan
SierraFan
8 years ago

Amen Chip! Just sick!

Charles O. Jones
Charles O. Jones
8 years ago

Did I understand this correctly – they did charge the renters for TOT but failed to actually pass on the tax they collected to the town? Wouldn’t that be a form of embezzlement? Perhaps they should be happy with a fine. They could be sentenced to time in the Grey… Read more »

SierraFan
SierraFan
8 years ago

That’s what’s been reported. If a person knows that TOT is due then why wouldn’t they submit it? That’s because they knew it was illegal and didn’t want to get caught breaking the law/rules. I guess the $100,000 plus they made on the illegal rental program isn’t enough to cover… Read more »

MK
MK
8 years ago
Reply to  SierraFan

why did they not submit the TOT they collected at the time. Only the Cozens know the real answer to that. From what they stated in public is that the town claimed they did not collect TOT from a non-zoned Single Family Home. This really can be true. In researching… Read more »

scott lawson
scott lawson
8 years ago

I say make them pay the fines. Illegal is illegal no matter who. If these people don’t have appropriate paperwork to show they were told they didn’t have to pay then they need to be fined. I am very disappointed in the council, especially in light of the fact this… Read more »

TOT or notot
TOT or notot
8 years ago

Oh I forgot. Not withstanding what happened to the Cozens, I feel that Mueller made every attempt to be timely. Raimondo accepted the tax return on behalf of the town. This should have never gone this far. Staff should have dealt with this internally.

TOT or notot
TOT or notot
8 years ago

I am so perplexed that the town council did not uphold any fine to the Cosens for illegal rental . There may be many complications from this.

Mammothite
Mammothite
8 years ago
Reply to  TOT or notot

Maybe someday, the town council will have no developers or lawyers who represent real estate interests, and some real progress can occur. Nobody recuses themselves anymore and its becoming longer and longer between elections.

Tourbillon
Tourbillon
8 years ago

So Morris is miffed because the Council did not assume the homeowners were lying? Because there was no evidence of innocence?

I believe people in America are still presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. If this rankles Czar Morris – good.

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  Tourbillon

Mr. Morris also noted, though I didn’t put it in the story, that the Town staff did not rebut what the Cozens said, which, according to procedure they could or should have. Also, innocence was my word. Basically, Morris was saying there was no evidence to support the Cozens claims… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
8 years ago
Reply to  Tourbillon

Amen .. though it is considerably opposite so much of the time .. kind of fashionable it seems.