Concerns remain in wake of arrest of hotel employee

By Mary Hood
Fairhope Courier Intern
Posted 7/6/07

FAIRHOPE — Concerns over the guest worker housing have risen due to the arrest of a hotel worker last week.

Euclyn Ellis, 21, a Jamaican man who worked at the bell stand at the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club and Spa, was arrested last …

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Concerns remain in wake of arrest of hotel employee


FAIRHOPE — Concerns over the guest worker housing have risen due to the arrest of a hotel worker last week.

Euclyn Ellis, 21, a Jamaican man who worked at the bell stand at the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club and Spa, was arrested last Thursday by Fairhope Police Sgt. David Martinez. He was charged with second-degree sodomy involving a 13-year-old girl, Martinez said.

He was transferred June 29 to the Baldwin County Corrections Center where, at press time, he remains on a $100,000 bond.

The alleged incident took place about 3 a.m., Thursday, June 28, on hotel property, although Ellis was not working at the time.

David Clark, hotel general manager, said hotel rules prohibit employees from being on hotel property when they are not working.

“Coming back on to property is a very serious misconduct,” Clark said.

Ellis, Clark said, has been suspended from his job.

Clark said he has heard second-hand that the girl was a daughter of an employee who was working a late shift that evening.

Clark said employees were required to get permission from an executive committee member before they brought family members to the work site.

Permission would not be granted to bring a child on the property at such late hours and unsupervised, Clark said.

Ellis was hired through a second labor company, which Clark said performs the background checks and drugs tests.

Clark said the hotel has 600 to 700 workers and the hotel has “good, long-standing records.”

As far as international recruits, Clark said there haven’t been problems in the past.

“These people are an integral part of our labor force and they’ve worked out well,” Clark said. “We’ve done this for five years now and there hasn’t been a big (incident of) misconduct.”

Clark said he can’t recall the last time something of this nature happened at the hotel. He said their security is good.

“Can you catch everything all the time?” Clark said. “No, but we have very good (security) systems here.”

Ellis lived in the foreign-worker housing next to Fairhope High School, igniting concerns that initially began when construction broke ground.

Bob Callahan, Baldwin County school board president, said he is no more concerned than he ever was.

“My concerns are about the security and safety of our children,” Callahan said.

He said the school likes to know the backgrounds of people who live nearby the school and bus stops, adding that now, 100 or so individuals have been placed by the high school with no information being provided about them.

“They aren’t being helpful, they aren’t be cooperative, they aren’t being forthcoming with information,” Callahan said.

The foreign-worker housing is leased by the hotel from Lone Oaks Properties LLC.

“At first we were told that the people are going to be college graduate interns, well that implies people of a certain age to me, but what are coming over are people more close in age to our student population,” Callahan said.

He equated it to having a fraternity house next to the school.

“Frankly, I wouldn’t want a fraternity house next door,” Callahan said. “It’s not where they come from that causes the concern.”

He said he doesn’t believe people of that age should be living together without security and unsupervised.

Callahan said the school board was also told the Grand would be providing transportation for the workers who did not own cars.

“(Ellis) wasn’t supposed to be on grounds, so who’s responsible for getting him off the grounds?” Callahan asked.

Callahan said they were told that the Grand would have incredible control and authority of the workers.

“That’s a quote,” Callahan said. “What my concern as the school board representative is how are they going to exert that control and authority over the individuals and access to the property if they don’t provide security?”

A privacy fence has been placed on the high school’s property to keep individuals from trespassing on the closed campus, Callahan said.

Callahan said he hopes the Fairhope Police Department and the city of Fairhope can cooperate to help maintain security.

Cpl. Craig Sawyer, assistant administrator at the police department, said the police chief is looking to hire an officer to be at the high school during school hours.

Sawyer held that position until he was moved into administration and now a replacement is being considered.

Councilman Cecil Christenberry said he believes the area needs to be monitored just like any other school is but maybe more can be done.

“I would like to see some type of on-site manager,” Christenberry said of the complex.

Bob Gentle, City Council president, said perhaps police patrolling can be increased since the housing, although it doesn’t fall within city limits, falls within the police jurisdiction.

Gentle said the city needs to work with the county, and the Grand to deal with the housing issues.

“It’s commercially driven, and the city has nothing to do with it, that’s the problem we have today,” Gentle said. “The city is going to have to work with the Grand Hotel and others in maybe directing this kind of thing. There are ways of handling things here.”

Sawyer said he believes having the guest workers here will not impact the crime rates.

Christenberry said he wants to believe that this will never happen again.

“I hope and pray that it was just an isolated incident that occurred that should have never happened,” Christenberry said.

Sawyer said a positive step in handling the situation is education.

“I know there were some concerns about guest workers staying here, but I don’t think it’s so much with the workers themselves,” Sawyer said. “I think most of them are here with good intentions, but I think parents really need to educate their children about what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate.”

He also said the cultural differences may be a factor for the guest workers.

“We just have to hopefully give them a chance to be educated on our laws and hopefully we can avoid these problems,” Sawyer said.