Baker County has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order the company that owns three motels in Baker City to give the county records related to lodging taxes paid by motel guests in parts of 2017 and 2018.
Patrick M. Gregg, an attorney from Pendleton, filed the suit Jan. 21 on the county’s behalf.
The defendant is DK Hotel Management LLC. The company owns the Quality Inn Sunridge Inn, 1 Sunridge Lane; the Super 8 by Wyndham, 250 Campbell St.; and Motel 6 Baker City, 175 Campbell St., according to the complaint.
Officials from the company could not be reached for comment.
At issue is the Baker County lodging tax.
An ordinance requires owners of motels, bed-and-breakfasts and other lodging businesses in most of Baker County, including Baker City, to collect a 7% tax on each room rate and give that money to the county.
A county ordinance requires that 70% of the tax revenue be spent for tourism promotion, 25% for economic development and 5% for administrative expenses the county incurs in collecting the tax.
Lodging tax revenue dropped from $625,000 in fiscal 2016-17 to $538,000 in fiscal 2017-18.
The county projected the revenue to dip again, to $420,000, for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2020.
The Sunridge, the county’s largest motel with about 150 rooms, collects the biggest share of the lodging taxes. In the 2014-15 fiscal year, Sunridge guests paid about $194,000 in lodging taxes — about 42% of the total paid that year, according to county records.
The Super 8 has 72 rooms and Motel 6 has 40 rooms.
The county’s lawsuit addresses declining lodging tax collections, reading: “Beginning in 2018 the tax collected by Defendant at its three establishments dropped precipitously as compared to prior time periods.”
County officials, citing the lodging tax ordinance’s requirement that motels, with 72-hour notice, turn over accounting records related to room rentals, sought records from the Sunridge, Super 8 and Motel 6.
“The purpose of this request for records was to verify the accuracy of the information set out on Transient Lodging tax returns filed by Defendant,” according to the lawsuit. “Despite repeated requests by Plaintiff’s representatives Defendant has failed to provide all of the request records.”
The lawsuit lists specific records:
• Registration cards for the Super 8 for February and June of 2018
• Monthly reports from Motel 6 showing total revenue, exempt revenue and other room statistics from July 2017 through June 2018, daily reports from February and June of 2018, registration cards from February and June of 2018, and the number of rooms and average percentage rented in each calendar quarter.
• Exempt revenue monthly reports from July 2017 to June 2018 for the Sunridge Inn.
The lawsuit also states that DK Hotel Management has failed to give the county access to software used to track lodging records for Motel 6, and that company officials claimed reports were not available for the Sunridge Inn from January through March 2018.
Last summer Baker County commissioners said the reason the county ended its contract with economic developer Greg Smith was declining lodging tax revenue, which paid for Smith’s $96,000 annual contract.
County officials attributed the drop in part due to renovations at the Sunridge Inn that temporarily reduced the number of rooms available in that motel.
Bill Harvey, chairman of the Baker County Board of Commissioners, said that although he can’t comment specifically about the lawsuit, without the records the county is demanding, county officials can’t determine whether the three motels have been complying with the lodging tax ordinance.