- Written by Steve Frank
Barry Damon Mallatere turned himself in at the Watauga Magistrates office just before noon Friday. Winston-Salem attorney David Friedman was there to represent the president of Appalachian Hospitality Management, operators of the Best Western in Boone when three people died in room 225 last spring. Friedman, speaking for Mallatere, talked first about his bonding out on the four counts, saying bond was set at $40,000. A press release from attorney Paul Culpepper Wednesday makes a case for blame not only on the firm hired to make changes to the pool heater that is being blamed in the deaths, but says the Town of Boone did inspect work at the Best Western and other hotels under the Appalachian Hospitality Management umbrella. The release said that AHM did have employees swap out the pool heater from the Sleep Inn to the Best Western in November of 2011, but within three months, contracted with Independence Oil and LP Gas to convert the pool heater to natural gas from propane. Yesterday, Culpeppers office provided me copies of the construction permit from Independence Oil and the inspection sign-off by the town of Boone. The release says that Independence Oil did the work even though the owners manual said it should not be convertedand they claim a permit was issued by the Town of Boone and saying in the release, it was allegedly inspected by the Town of Boone. The Raleigh News & Observer is reporting that on Jan. 1, Hotel Equities, an Atlanta-based company, took over operations of the hotel group. Damon Mallatere is free after posting the $40,000 bond pending a court appearance in February.