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Former View Point partner offers up his side

A former owner of the View Point Inn in Corbett said disputes with contractors and businesses, as well as a demanding work environment, are partly to blame for the inn's longtime financial woes and legal disputes, including the recent Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.

Angelo Simione, who ran the inn with partner and former owner Geoff Thompson, said they spent about $1 million in their three-year battle with government agencies and environmental groups to open the inn - which was built in the 1920s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 - for commercial use.

'If we didn't have that battle, we would have been better off financially (when the inn opened in 2006),' Simione said. Since then, he said, the high cost of running the inn, business mistakes and disputes with several businesses and employees contributed to the inn's financial troubles.

'We've always chased our financial tails with the inn,' he said.

Thompson did not respond to The Outlook's request for comment.

On June 20, Thompson filed for Chapter 11, which allowed him to continue running the inn with protection from creditors.

Simione said the creditors would have been paid back had Thompson been allowed to keep running the inn, adding that it was going to be one of the inn's best seasons with at least 50 weddings scheduled. He said an investor, whom he declined to identify, had expressed interest in helping the inn.

However, a fire on July 10 damaged the inn's roof and upper level, while the rest of the building sustained water and smoke damage. Simione and Thompson learned that the inn's insurance had lapsed months earlier because of nonpayment, so they appealed to the public to help repair the inn by donating at least $1 million.

Thompson, however, lost control of the inn when a bankruptcy court on July 14 converted his Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing to Chapter 7, which means a trustee takes over, liquidates the debtors' assets and pays as much as possible to creditors.

According to court documents, Thompson owes $2.8 million in secured debt, including a federal tax lien of more than $104,000, at least five state tax liens, at least nine judgment liens and various trust deeds and mortgages. The creditors include several construction companies and businesses that claim they were not fully paid for work performed at the inn.

Thompson also owes unsecured debt totaling almost $128,000; and at least 188 creditors have 'unknown' claims. The unsecured creditors include 29 former employees of the inn, who are seeking more than $150,000 in unpaid wages and penalties through the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. Three other employees filed a separate claim with BOLI for almost $164,000 in unpaid wages and penalties.

Issues with former employees

Jennifer O'Connell, a former business manager at the View Point Inn, told The Outlook that many employees quit because of infrequent paychecks and because of Thompson's alleged verbal and emotional abuse. O'Connell said she processed about 200 W-2 forms for the 2009 tax year because of the high turnover rate.

Simione said he wasn't sure about a high turnover rate among employees. He said other reasons - including the hours, the commuting distance to the inn and personal issues - led many employees to quit. He also thought the inn had too many employees, leading to a high payroll 'that took us down' in December 2009, when the inn temporarily closed.

Simione said Thompson was a perfectionist and a taskmaster when it came to running the inn, which led to many problems with employees, although he disagreed that the inn's working environment was 'abusive.'

'Geoff is a passionate dreamer and a drill sergeant,' Simione said. 'Even for an easygoing person, he would not be a fun person to work for.'

Simione said he and Thompson hired a few general managers to oversee the inn, but none of them worked out. He said Thompson would concede he is tough to work for because he has high expectations for employees that not many people could meet.

Simione said he and Thompson tried to find other loans and investors who could help the inn financially and pay back its creditors. Simione said Thompson had several ideas for raising extra money to keep the inn afloat, such as having actors from the 'Twilight' movie make an appearance.

'This is something a lot of people don't believe, but (Thompson) does want to save the inn,' Simione added.

Simione also said the staff were better paid than he and Thompson.

'Not a penny came to me from the inn,' he said. '(Thompson) took paychecks when he could.'

Contractors have disputes with inn

Several construction companies that did work at the inn are among Thompson's creditors.

Simione said many disputes with contractors arose because Simione and Thompson weren't satisfied with the work, although the construction companies interviewed said Thompson signed off on the work when they were finished. Simione said they offered their creditors gift cards and special deals to help lower the debt.

Simione and Thompson in particular had criticized Dick Wand Construction - a creditor seeking about $10,000 for unpaid work it did at the inn four years ago - and state Rep. Matt Wand, a Gresham attorney representing the company.

Simione contended that Dick Wand Construction did not finish the work it was hired to do and went thousands of dollars over budget.

Dick Wand said he completed the work at the inn, but Thompson and Simione refused to pay, leading him to place a lien.

Simione said Matt Wand placed a high interest rate on the debt, making it difficult for them to pay Dick Wand back. Matt Wand, however, said the interest rate is set by state statute.

Simione said he wasn't sure about the 188 creditors listed in the court documents, but conceded that the inn's financial troubles made it difficult to pay people back at once, leading them to make small payments to each creditor.

Simione also contended that despite their critics, more people have expressed support for them and for the inn.

Unsure of inn's future

Because of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy ruling, a court trustee will determine if the View Point Inn and Thompson's valuable assets can be sold, with the money going to his creditors.

The Oregonian reported July 21 that Multnomah County required Thompson and Simione to make several repairs to the inn as a condition of its business permit. The deadline for those repairs is March 2012; if the repairs are incomplete, the county may not renew the permit.

Simione said all of the repairs had been completed, except for replacement of the cedar roof, which was not repaired because of the high cost, he said.

Simione said July 15 that he planned to buy the inn. Simione co-owned the inn with Thompson until he removed his name from the property title in 2010 while undergoing treatment for cancer. Since he was not part of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy, he said, he was told that he could buy the property himself.

Simione said he's now not sure about buying the inn back, but noted that he and Thompson would make several changes to how the inn is run if he were to buy it.

'We finally got a grip on staff, hours of operation and a much larger push for events because it's seasonal,' he said.

The inn now sits empty with a fire-damaged roof, the interior of the building exposed to the weather and elements. Simione doubts anyone else will step in to buy the inn, noting that no one else was interested in buying it before.

'That's the tragedy, the crime, the victim all rolled into one,' Simione said. 'It's a tragedy more so for the inn than it is for Geoff and I.'