Back On Track Inn owner fined for not insuring worker
The owner of the Back On Track Inn was found guilty in Carson City Justice Court on Tuesday of employing someone without purchasing workers compensation insurance.
Betty Brinson was ordered by Judge John Tatro to pay $803 in fines and legal fees to the state attorney general’s office after she allowed a 49-year-old man who had been living in an unheated trailer to stay in the motel’s manager room in exchange for various odd jobs, including watching the property and occasionally cleaning rooms or registering guests at the long-term-stay motel.
Brinson also owns the nearby Whistle Stop Inn and Monsters Day Inn preschool.
Under Nevada law, employers are required to purchase workers compensation insurance in case an employee is hurt on the job. Brinson and the man, Martin Speller, disputed the charges. They argued the living arrangement did not mean Speller was an employee at the motel because he did not keep regular hours and was paid no wages.
But David Neidert, the senior deputy attorney general arguing on behalf of the state, said the free room in exchange for work constituted employment. The judge agreed.
“If somebody’s injured while they’re working, the medical costs can be outrageously huge,” Neidert said. “(Workers compensation insurance) is not a bill that you can afford to skip.”
Speller said he met Brinson while he was living in a trailer in Fallon, adding he has lung cancer.
“You see, the state is broke and they’re being very ruthless,” Brinson said. “I’m just giving a poor sick man a place to live during the wintertime.”
Brinson purchased the motel, formerly the Downtowner, last year in an attempt to turn around the beleaguered property. But after Tuesday’s decision, Brinson said she no longer wants to run the motel and said she is going to cancel her business license.
“They’re stepping on the blue collar toes,” she said.
The Downtowner was shut down by the city in 2005 as a public health hazard. It reopened in 2007, but then-owner Ralph Ahmad lost his business license a year later for failing to pay taxes. It then went into foreclosure last year, and was purchased by James DiMartino, who sold the property to Ahmad in 1998. Brinson took over in July 2009.