published Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Mold claims spur billing dispute at Chattanooga's Sheraton Read House

The Sheraton Read House is located at the corner of Broad Street and MLK Blvd. in Chattanooga.
The Sheraton Read House is located at the corner of Broad Street and MLK Blvd. in Chattanooga.
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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John Gannotti's family lived for four months at the Sheraton Read House and paid the hotel about $15,000 for their stay.

It was the best of times or the worst of times, depending on whom you ask.

Gannotti says his extended stay was going fine until he discovered mold in room 351. Other than a few problems with room service, he said his stay was incident-free until he linked his persistent cold to the mold by the air-conditioner.

When he informed management of the mold, the hotel accused him of bringing up the problem to avoid paying the May rent, which amounted to about $5,000.

"We've paid everything they've asked; why would we start trying to get out of paying," Gannotti asked.

Photos taken with his iPhone show peeling wallpaper and black gunk under the carpet.

"They said we're manufacturing this situation," Gannotti said. "How do you manufacture mold?"

So he left, incensed.

But others tell a different story.

According to Bonnie Deakins, head of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department, an inspector found that some water had leaked in from the roof, but there was no mold.

"The inspector found water damage, but no current or active mold," Deakins said.

Furthermore, records show that the Gannottis' stay has not been a walk in the park for Read House workers.

Since February, several hotel employees have asked managers for permission not to interact with the Gannottis due to repeated "personal insults, raising of the voice and name calling," according to signed statements.

The hotel's general manager, Paul Mezick, said the Gannottis on Thursday attempted to leave without paying.

"It was interesting that they attempted to bolt out of here," Mezick said.

He called the police and is suing the Gannottis for defrauding an innkeeper.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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