|By Naxiely Lopez, The Monitor, McAllen,
TexasMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
March 08, 2011--MCALLEN -- Five South Texas hotels have agreed to pay more than $80,000 in civil penalties and attorney fees after unlawfully hiking lodging prices during Hurricane Dolly.
State investigators discovered the hotels -- Motel 6 in Harlingen, Best Western La Palmas Inn in Mission, Country Hearth Inn and Suites in Pharr and Comfort Inn in Edinburg and in Pharr -- increased the costs of their rooms after Gov. Rick Perry issued a disaster declaration as Hurricane Dolly approached the area in July 2008, according to a news release from Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott.
Under Texas Law, when the governor declares a disaster, vendors are prohibited from raising prices to profit from the disaster, said Abbott, who is charged with enforcing the law.
Each of the five hotels decided to enter an agreement, in which they were ordered to pay civil penalties and change their business practices during a declared disaster, Abbott said. The businesses must now post the daily room rate in each room and maintain a registration system that includes guests' names, contact information, length of stay and rates charged per day.
The hotels were assessed the following fees:
>> Motel 6, Harlingen: $15,000 -- $11,000 as a civil penalty and $4,000 for attorney fees.
>> Country Hearth Inn and Suites, Pharr: $15,212 -- $11,000 as a civil penalty and $4,212 for attorney fees.
>> Comfort Inn, Pharr: $26,277 -- $19,000 as a civil penalty and $7,277 for attorney fees.
>> Comfort Inn, Edinburg: $23,511 -- $17,000 as a civil penalty and $6,511 for attorney fees.
>> Best Western La Palmas Inn, Mission: $8,000 -- $2,000 as a civil penalty and $6,000 for attorney fees.
Naxiely Lopez covers law enforcement and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at (956) 683-4434.
To see more of The Monitor, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.themonitor.com.
Copyright (c) 2011, The Monitor, McAllen, Texas
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