The manager of the Bergmann Hotel was handcuffed and taken to jail late Friday afternoon, as city officials removed residents from the condemned building and boarded up all the windows and doors.
But Charles Cotten remained defiant of the city’s authority Saturday, saying, “I went to jail standing up for those people and I’m going to fight for them. There was no call for that — there was nothing life-threatening enough in that situation” to classify the building as unsafe for human occupancy.
“I was not allowed to go with them on their final walk-through inspection,” Cotten charged. “That’s because too much had been done (on the code violations) — enough they would have had to let us stay open. They did not even inspect, they just started evicting people.”
Cotten claims this is a personal vendetta against him and against building owners Kathleen and James Barrett.
“They’re coming after me because I’m an ex-con, but they didn’t do their homework,” he said, adding that he is planning on suing the city. “They’re fixing to get a rude awakening. … They violated a lot of my rights. … I can tell you one thing for sure — they’re in hot water.”
The City and Borough of Juneau opted to shut down the Bergmann because, officials said, the building owner failed to address outstanding fire and building code violations, putting tenants in imminent danger. The health and safety hazards reportedly included an inoperable sprinkler system, a gaping hole in the roof, lack of heat and hot water, inadequate restrooms, exposed wiring, broken windows and unsuitable emergency exit doors.
Last week, before the 24-hour notice was posted on the hotel, Cotten was charged with both a minor offense and a misdemeanor for unlawful continuance of a fire hazard, because he failed to correct the list of fire and life safety code violations. According to the case filing, he had been issued notices to correct the issues on Oct. 31 and on March 1.
Cotten appeared in Juneau Superior Court Wednesday in front of Judge Thomas Nave. Municipal prosecutor Sherri Layne — who noted this is not a charge that is prosecuted very often — told the judge that the fire department had gone in multiple times with a long list of serious issues.
Cotten was charged because he was working on behalf of the owner. But he says he is not legally responsible for managing the Bergmann — that there is a limited liability company, CPR Services, that is the contracted management.
Cotten was taken into custody Friday for violating his conditions of release on the previous misdemeanor charge, said Juneau Police Department public safety manager Erann Kalwara in a press release. He was also charged with a new count of reckless or intentional violation of a lawful order of the building official, a Class A misdemeanor.
Cotten said he was taken to Lemon Creek Correctional Center, where he was initially being held without bail. But, he added, the judge spoke to a prosecutor and then released him on his own recognizance right before 9 p.m. His arraignment is set for today.
Cotten said being taken into custody “did not surprise me one bit,” adding, “I’m no stranger to the system.”
“Once they placed me under arrest, I disclosed to them that I am employed by the LLC,” he said. “What they did was wrong, and I will continue to demand fair treatment.”
• Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 523-2246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.