Two years ago today, the City and Borough of Juneau filed a lawsuit against James and Kathleen Barrett and Gastineau Apartments LLC. Later this summer, there might finally be a court date.
The Barretts owned the Gastineau Apartments, a complex on North Franklin Street that caught fire twice and had to be demolished by the CBJ after being declared a “public nuisance” in 2015.
On March 2, 2016, the city filed a lawsuit against the Barretts and their LLC, seeking to recover the $1.3 million that it spent demolishing the building. By the time the city finished paying contractors and others who helped in the process, that number rose to about $1.6 million.
The matter was scheduled to head to court this week, but in a Feb. 20 hearing, the trial date was pushed back. The tentative date for the trial is for Aug. 13 of this year. Neither of the Barretts, nor their lawyer Joe Josephson, was present at last week’s hearing. Josephson had someone call in on his behalf. Josephson declined to comment on the status of the case when reached later.
City Attorney Amy Mead said she has made a motion to get the Barretts to disclose their bank records as discovery in the case. There will be a hearing April 19 where the two lawyers will give verbal arguments on whether it’s necessary for the Barretts to disclose their bank records. Mead said the records will help in determining what happened to the insurance proceeds the Barretts received after the fires and how that money was used.
After the initial fire in 2012, the building sat vacant for years and continued to deteriorate, Mead has explained in the past. The city deemed it a “public nuisance” after the second fire in 2015 and demolished the building in January 2016.
The property is currently vacant and owned by Kathleen and Breffni Properties, which also owns the Bergmann Hotel and two nearby houses. Dave D’amato, currently the power of attorney for Kathleen, said Kathleen simply wants to get this case behind her and has been interested in pursuing some kind of settlement.
Kathleen, currently 80 years old, is in failing health, D’amato has said on multiple occasions. The status of James, 43, is also mostly unknown. James has not been showing up for court hearings and has been difficult to reach, Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg mentioned in court last week.
“Mr. Barrett is not here,” Pallenberg said. “I’m a little uneasy about that fact, and I’m a little uneasy about Mr. Barrett’s role in the litigation and whether there are issues about his ability to participate in the litigation.”
D’amato said Kathleen has pursued guardianship of James, concerned for his well-being. That pursuit has not gone the way they would have liked, D’amato said.
James still lives at 401 Harris Street downtown, and neighbors have long been concerned about the late-night visitors, the police raids, the noise and what many of them believe to be drug dealing and prostitution. Since October, D’amato and others have worked to clean up the Bergmann and two nearby properties.
Kathleen recently took action, D’amato said, that could lead to that house having new owners. Kathleen and James co-own that house, and Kathleen has filed for a partition, D’amato explained, that would allow her to sell the house.
“She’s asking the court to let her sell James’ house and then just split the money with him,” D’amato said, “meaning that he’s going to have to find someplace else to live.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.