Brookdale Inn and Spa owner pays $17,000 for dead fish but is slapped with lawsuit from employees

Brookdale Inn and Spa owner pays $17,000 for dead fish but is slapped with lawsuit from employees

Acknowledgement to Ironshore Environmental

Santa Cruz Sentinel, Calif.

Apr. 17–SANTA CRUZ — The owner of the Brookdale Inn and Spa will pay nearly $17,000 after one of his employees poured chemicals into a storm drain in 2008, killing about 50 endangered steelhead trout as they swam through Clear Creek in the lodge’s famous dining room.

But new problems continue to pop up at the beleaguered inn, as Santa Cruz attorney Jonathan Gettleman on Wednesday served Kakkar with yet another lawsuit. This one alleged a host of unfair work practices on behalf of eight former employees.

“I’m going to be very interested to find where Mr. Kakkar is keeping all the money I hear he has,” Gettleman said. “He owes the community and the people who work there and the people who live there.”

The fish settlement was filed in Santa Cruz County Superior Court on March 29. Restitution includes:

Payment of $6,000 to the Department of Fish and Game’s Fish and Wildlife Pollution Account for reimbursement of investigative costs.

Payment of $2,000 to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement for reimbursement of investigation costs.

Payment of $4,000 to Santa Cruz County Fish and Game Advisory

Commission, and $4,000 to the Department of Fish and Game’s Preservation Fund for civil penalties.

Payment of $660 to the Superior Court of California to cover filing fees.

“I think it’s a good resolution to this problem,” said Santa Cruz attorney Peter Leeming. “Its a reasonable resolution to a problem that potentially could have been a lot more serious.”

The newest civil suit included charges of not paying employee wages; paying workers with bad checks; not paying employees who were fired or quit their jobs; not paying minimum wage; not paying overtime; inflicting severe emotional distress; not giving meal or rest breaks; and unfair business practices, among others. The suit is seeking restitution and compensation for the employees.

Some of those civil charges overlap with felony charges that Kakkar was arrested on last year, such as paying workers with bad checks. Those felony charges, brought by the county, also included insurance fraud and not carrying workers’ compensation insurance.

The felony case has been postponed until mid-May, pending the results of an arson investigation following a fire that burned down apartments behind the lodge in August.

The most recent civil suit is one of four filed against Kakkar personally in Santa Cruz County Superior Court, and eight naming the Brookdale Inn and Spa.

Leeming said he has not seen the new suit, but one of the former employees named already has been paid $32,000 for the disputed workers’ compensation claim. Kakkar, on the other hand, said the eventual verdict would show that he did not break the law.

“I believe it’s a frivolous lawsuit that has no merit,” Kakkar said. “I personally think it has been brought up by greedy and unscrupulous attorneys. I think it’s all full of lies. But we’ll have our day in court.”

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