The Bad Karma Motel

The owner just wants out. The informant's cover has been blown. The defense lawyer is always on the offensive. In the war to spiff up Biscayne Boulevard's low-rent motels, the case of the Camelot Inn is the strangest battle yet.

The decision about the Camelot doesn't sit well with community activists, either, including Ernestine Stevens, who was instrumental in pushing for the creation of the NAB in 1991. "This decision destroys the credibility of the board. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I would encourage Mr. Lin to sue the hell out of the city for what appears to be preferential treatment by the board," she seethes, asserting that the proprietor of the Seven Seas was treated unfairly by comparison. Next Wednesday, March 22, Thomas Lin will petition the board to allow him to reopen early, on the grounds that he has gone to great lengths to fence in, light, and beautify his premises. "I am borrowing money to maintain my mortgage [of] around $8000 a month," Lin says. "If we do not get the early reopening, I have to go bankrupt."

The Shalimar has been sold twice since its closure. According to more than one innkeeper on the boulevard, previous owner Paul Yang has left the country, and now no one is sure what will become of the once-pretty Shalimar, its pink paint faded and its parking lot deserted.

When CI Number Eleven learned of the board's ruling on the Camelot, she was entertaining fantasies about taking a baseball bat, finding her assailants, and cracking their skulls. Now halfway through her six months of community control for the grand theft charges, she also talks about moving to North Carolina to start fresh, about resuming her studies in criminal justice and earning a master's degree. But at home in her cluttered cottage, a worn paperback copy of Helter Skelter beside her pillow and a can of Keystone beer close by in a paper bag, Sandy is somewhat less optimistic. "I ain't nothing," she says. "I'm just a snitch. Who's gonna listen to me?"

Since the decision, NAB members have expressed doubts about the validity of using Sandy's buys as evidence, despite the fact that they had no trouble voting to close the Shalimar and the Seven Seas back in November. Until Jonathan Schwartz came along, they point out, no one had raised questions about the process. Might Sandy have set up the buys with her friends as he alleged? If the drugs and prostitution were as rampant at the Metro as she testified, why hadn't there been more arrests? And what were they to make of the talk about bribery and threats, which, owing to ongoing investigations, had been forbidden topics of discussion?

"I still have other questions. I still don't know," admits Robert Valledor, who voted against the closure because he felt he didn't have enough solid information. "I wasn't happy with the decision."

Board member Norman Powell cast his vote in favor of the month-long shutdown. "The way the board is set up, it's really difficult to deal with a hearing of that nature," says Powell, an attorney. "This was the worst case ever."

As an afterthought, he mentions his lunch at a Chinese restaurant the day before the hearing. The paper slip inside his fortune cookie read: "A liar is not believed even though he tells the truth.

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