Off Limits

A Riddle runs through it: What a bargain! More free entertainment courtesy of Sam Riddle, the $250-an-hour man when he worked for the secretary of state's office and the $200-per-bond man after his arrest July 16 for disobeying a lawful order and resisting police authority. Riddle's not due in Denver County Court until next week, but the case is already heating up: In his column last Sunday, the Denver Post's Chuck Green suggested that Riddle's records were suppressed by Someone High Up; the office of the Highest Up Someone, Mayor Wellington Webb, insists that's nonsense.

The saga began when the admittedly well-lubricated Riddle was driving a Ford Explorer late that Friday night, which a buttinsky citizen reported to the police as having been weaving. When two Denver Police Department officers caught up with Riddle in north Denver, he was out of the car and in the driveway of a home. At that point, according to the complaint, Officer W. Hunter "asked, 'Do you live here?' No answer...blank stare." Finally, "def. states 'Fuck you...I live here' when Hunter attempts to hold def. from walking away by right arm."

Pretty hot stuff, huh? Even so, when a Westword reporter stopped by the police department early Monday morning and asked for Riddle's records, all that he got--for $10--was a truncated arrest record, a mug shot and the instructions that if he wanted more information, he would have to contact the DPD's civil liabilities division. But before that office could send more documentation, Webb's press secretary, Andrew Hudson, got into the act, faxing along the complaint as well as a chronology provided by Detective Virginia Lopez, the police spokeswoman on duty that weekend. "I had spoken with Chief [Tom] Sanchez," Lopez states, "and we discussed the fact that there was no need to get into the details as to what transpired such as the belligerent attitude at the time of contact and the possible drinking. The police department does not try cases in the media."

No, that's the media's job.

Snap judgments: The delivery of still-smiling Sam's mug shot coincided with news (from the New York Post) of the first TV movie about the Columbine High School massacre--as though we haven't seen enough about the real thing on the small screen already. The networks reportedly are now in a bidding war for the rights to mom Misty Bernall's to-be-released-in-September She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall. Cassie was the student who was shot to death after telling one of the gunmen, either Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold, that yes, she believed in God.

Although Riddle's role as spokesman for the family of Isaiah Shoels is technically a minor one, casting someone like Denzel Washington in the part would give the winning network some real star power. As for Michael Shoels, clearly the only man for the job is Yaphet Kotto, who went on national TV shortly after the shootings to complain about racist attitudes in the Littleton schools when his family lived there in the early Nineties. Actually, Kotto lived over twenty miles away, in Conifer--but everything here looks closer from the Coasts.

Other early candidates for the casting call: Burt Reynolds (the gray-haired version) for Jefferson County sheriff's spokesman (and national heartthrob) Steve Davis; Sigourney Weaver as stoic, stonewalling Jeffco schools superintendent Jane Hammond; Danny De Vito in a dual role as Columbine principal Frank DeAngelis and U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo; and, in the all-important part of back-to-blabbing Jeffco Sheriff John Stone, the unforgettable Jack Burns, who played Warren Ferguson, Barney Fife's successor on The Andy Griffith Show.

Name recognition: The Adam's Mark hotel chain is not infested with racists and bigots--really, it's not. From the lowliest bellboy to the lofty offices of CEO Fred S. Kummer, Adam's Mark is dedicated to diversity. Really. They promise. In fact, HBE's Adam's Mark chain--which is now facing its third discrimination lawsuit in four years--is so politically correct that it's mailed off fat packets to newspapers in all of its markets, including Denver, saying just that.

"Let me be the first to assure you that we believe there is no basis for the allegations against our Daytona Beach property, or against the Adam's Mark Hotels nationwide," Kummer writes. "While we are taking steps to address the lawsuit in the federal courts, we are, at the same time, mindful of the perception this situation might create about our properties."

Too late! The "perception" is already here.
In 1996, Adam's Mark lost a discrimination lawsuit filed by two former managers at the St. Louis location: one who claimed he was fired because he was black, the other who said he was fired for objecting to the dismissal. That same year, eight employees at the Denver location accused Adam's Mark of age and gender discrimination; their complaint was backed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board. Two years later, a Missouri jury awarded more than $5 million to a black room-service worker who said he was passed over for a promotion because of his race. Also in 1998, Adam's Mark narrowly avoided a nationwide boycott after the NAACP ranked the hotel at the bottom of its list for service to black guests. And last May, the chain lost a bid to build a new location in Clayton, Missouri, after a heated debate about its history of racial problems.

The latest allegation against HBE comes from five black patrons of the company's Daytona Beach, Florida, location. Filed on May 20 in Orlando, the suit alleges that the hotel required black guests attending the annual Black College Reunion to prepay the entire room rate, plus a $100 damage deposit and a $25 deposit for in-room phone service; denied them parking privileges; restricted the number of outside visitors; and forced reunion attendees to wear orange wristbands at all times.

HBE's packet includes a three-page outline of these allegations accompanied by Kummer's lengthy denial of each one, as well as a two-page fact sheet, two separate letters to the editor, positive testimonials from black community leaders involved in BCR and an invitation to contact Steven A. Williams at HBE's executive offices in suburban St. Louis, "in the spirit of maintaining open and ongoing dialogue regarding these issues."

"Discrimination is not good business," Williams tells Westword. "It's not good business, these types of things. It is not the policy of this company. We certainly don't support it nor do we say we are guilty in this case." The unusually extensive damage control "was primarily in our defense of the allegations," he adds. "We aren't really able to comment on them right now, so we are sending out some printed information."

Despite the spin, however, Adam's Mark has a problem, and it's not going away. In Jacksonville, Florida, where the city council recently approved $23 million in taxpayer incentives to help fund a new Adam's Mark, the hotel's history was fully brought to light only after the vote--and the information disturbed some councilmembers who said they should have been filled in earlier on the details of the discrimination lawsuits. Not that it would necessarily have made a difference: Denver's city council knew of the charges, and its members still approved a $24 million Denver Urban Renewal Authority subsidy to Kummer's hotel here.

"Those things tend to be discussed when you are seeking public money. It's a public business, and all kinds of things can happen when you deal with the public," Williams says.

Then he adds, "Don't quote me on that, though. I'm just an advertising guy. I'm just the guy they asked to put this together."

Too late.

Off Limits is compiled by Jonathan Shikes. If you have a tip, call him at 303-293-3555, send a fax to 303-296-5416, or e-mail denver-editorial@westword.com.

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