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"Gestapo Tactics": Jerome Grand Hotel Files $8 Million Lawsuit Against the Town

Happy freaking holidays, Jerome, Arizona: The quaint historic mining town that's a popular tourist destination with Phoenicians has been nailed with an $8 million-plus lawsuit.

Brought upon by the Jerome Grand Hotel, the legal action is in response to the town government's decision to revoke the historic lodging spot's certificate of occupancy due to the hotel's "unsafe" conditions, according to the town manager's official press release.

As of the time this post was published, a court date had not been set.

During inspections performed in the summer, Jerome's fire chief Rusty Blair and chief building official David R. Steiver found that alterations within the building had taken place without the proper permitting and that the hotel didn't contain sufficient fire and emergency exits. The release, dated December 8, states that the Grand Hotel's owners "have been unwilling to meet those requirements, thus resulting in complete closure of the hotel."

Grand Hotel co-owner Robert Altherr tells New Times that they've been unjustly closed and that's why he has taken legal action.

"They're using Gestapo tactics," says Altherr. "In Jerome, I would say it comes down to jealously. If you disagree, that's when they start getting tough with you."

New Times' numerous attempts to speak with fire chief Blair and chief building official Steiver were unsuccessful. Jerome town manager Candace Gallagher also refused comment, citing the lawsuit that's been filed with the Yavapai County Superior Court. However, she did state, "There is a concern for safety because people are sleeping [at the Grand Hotel]."

According to Altherr, the drama began last year when the fire department told him to remove the Christmas lights on the hotel's exterior. Altherr noticed that on his drive to work, sixteen other businesses also contained decorative lights but were not reprimanded until he phoned police chief Allen Muma to complain that the Grand Hotel was being singled out.

Altherr' alleges that police chief Muma, who owns the Ghost City Inn Bed and Breakfast that's located less than a mile from the Jerome Grand Hotel, demanded the initial inspection that took place in August.

According to documents obtained by New Times, town inspectors visited the Grand Hotel on August 28, and found that the building didn't meet 2003 code standards as adopted by Jerome in 2009. Altherr claims that the hotel, a five-story building that opened in 1926-era mountainside dwelling in 1994, is indeed up to code. Once Altherr disputed the inspection results, "That's when they decided to go on a vengeful witch hunt," he says.

Along with the shutdown, which Altherr says cost the hotel $43,000 worth of canceled reservations as well as a potential guest spot on Ghost Adventures (Altherr says that the Travel Channel show was slated to visit the Grand Hotel days after it was closed), the 98-page lawsuit states that Altherr has been nailed with two criminal charges: failure to provide documents to hire a new architect, and failure to obtain a building permit.

"The reputation is worse than being shut down," says Altherr. "If you have a store and it's dangerous, it doesn't matter because you're not sleeping there. When it's a hotel and you have a bad reputation, people aren't going to want to stay there."

Jerome, located approximately 110 miles from Phoenix, is a former silver and copper mining area that bills itself as the "largest ghost town in America." Maynard James Keenan, lead singer of Tool, Puscifer, and A Perfect Circle, is a notable resident.

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Steve Jansen
Contact: Steve Jansen