Chena Hot Springs Resort settles case out of court

Posted: Thursday, August 16, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The criminal case against Chena Hot Springs Resort has been settled in a plea agreement with prosecutors.

The trial was to begin next week.

The Department of Law had charged the resort's ownership, as well as general manager David Dominguez and former pool manager Carol Douglas, with failing to chlorinate or sufficiently regulate the temperature of a pair of pools at the resort, then entering false information into records to cover it up.

The defendants were indicted last June on two felony counts of falsifying business records. They were also charged with six misdemeanor counts relating to violations of pool regulations.

In an agreement announced Wednesday, all charges against Dominguez and all but one charge against the resort were dropped. The resort agreed to plead no contest to a single misdemeanor count of failure to maintain spa chlorine residual levels.

As part of the agreement, the resort faces a maximum fine of $10,000 and could also face up to two years on probation or a one-year suspended sentence. The sentencing hearing will be held Aug. 24.

Charges against Douglas were dropped last November on the condition that she testify for the state.

The resort is owned by Connie Parks-Karl and publicly represented by her husband, Bernie Karl. It was bought from the state in 1998.

Bernie Karl, who has denied the charges from the beginning, contends that he and his wife were singled out for prosecution by the Department of Environmental Conservation. He contended that state employees had enjoyed special perks at the resort prior to the Karl ownership and thus disliked its being privately owned.

''They liked it when ... the state ran it, and when it was a Shangri-La up there, the state fit right in,'' Karl said. ''Now they've lost their little Mecca.''

State counsel Kevin Burke has refuted such claims. He has said the charges are simply an enforcement of regulations. Besides, he has noted, the charges were brought not by the DEC but by the Department of Law.

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