Bank plans to auction Havilah Inn

March 08, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writers Darren M. Allen and Amy L. Miller contributed to this article.

Financial woes follow R. Leon Rebert, owner of the Havilah Inn in Taneytown, as several area businesses claim that he bounced checks, reneged on contracts and failed to pay for goods and services in the past few years.

According to records in Carroll District Court, companies including Carroll County Foods Inc. in New Windsor and Cranberry Graphics in Westminster have filed suits seeking reimbursement.

Mr. Rebert also faces the foreclosure of his restaurant by the Taneytown Bank, which plans to auction the Havilah Inn on March 28, and accusations by former employees that their paychecks bounced.

A criminal summons for Mr. Rebert was issued Saturday by a Carroll District Court commissioner after M. Susan Gorsuch, who is in charge of the credit department of Carroll County Foods, complained that two checks written to pay for food supplied to the restaurant bounced.

Each of the charges for bad checks carries a possible prison term of 15 years.

On Jan. 26, R. G. Minter Presents Inc. of Gettysburg, Pa., filed a civil suit in Carroll District Court alleging that Mr. Rebert owed more than $4,100 to the company.

According to court records, Robert G. Minter -- the company owner -- acted as a business consultant to the Havilah Inn during most of 1993. He had a contract with the restaurant owner for payment of $500 a week during the life of the contract, then an additional sum at the contract's end.

When the contract was terminated in December, Mr. Minter said, Mr. Rebert owed him for more than six weeks of pay and $960 in expenses.

On March 1, Mr. Rebert was served with a summons in a District Court civil suit in which Cranberry Graphics of Westminster is seeking more than $1,400 for redesigning the Havilah Inn menu.

The graphic design company took the work in October 1992 on a cash basis because Mr. Rebert declined to apply for credit with the company, the suit says.

Proofs of the redesigned menu -- proclaiming that the Havilah Inn sold "Maryland's finest seafood east of the Monocacy" -- were delivered to Mr. Rebert in November 1992, but as of December 1993, he hadn't paid for the work, the suit says.

Last summer H&H Services Inc., a Baltimore linen supply company, sued Mr. Rebert and the Havilah Inn for more than $4,900, claiming the restaurant prematurely ended a three-month linen rental contract.

The suit was dismissed in November for reasons not disclosed in District Court records.

Mr. Rebert declined to comment on court actions until he consults his attorney, Westminster lawyer Clark Shaffer. But Mr. Rebert did say the auction came as a surprise to him.

"I was out of town this weekend. I was unaware of the auction. They never notified me," Mr. Rebert said. "The bank must have just decided to do that."

Charles E. Stoner, a lawyer representing Taneytown Bank, called the auction "just a standard foreclosure sale."

"My obligation as a substitute trustee is to get as much money for the property as I possibly can, so that not only the bank's debt is satisfied, but other creditors might be paid as well," Mr. Stoner said.

Mr. Stoner said the only other creditor he was aware of was the Fitzgerald family, the original owners of the restaurant who hold a second mortgage on the property.

Michael Barrett, Taneytown Bank and Trust vice president, said none of the bank's officers could talk about Mr. Rebert's loan because of client confidentiality.

Mr. Rebert cited weather-related damage to pipes as the reason he closed the restaurant Jan. 27. He told workers he planned to reopen today, said Doris Harner, a former waitress.

Under county regulations, Mr. Rebert had to inform the liquor board because he planned to be closed for more than 10 consecutive days.

County liquor board chairman Russell Mayer said board members knew about Mr. Rebert's financial troubles Feb. 10 when they gave him permission to keep the license.

"I had heard about it being closed for weather," said Mr. Mayer, who drove to the restaurant after the ice storm had cleared. "I thought this is OK, there's nothing wrong now."

Mr. Rebert struck a deal with the liquor board to allow him to keep the license for 30 days.

"We told him either to come in with someone wanting to buy the place or surrender the license," Mr. Mayer said.

If a buyer is found by Thursday, the board probably will agree to transfer the license to the new owner. But if the board does not hear from Mr. Rebert by Thursday, the members will send an investigator to the restaurant, Mr. Mayer said.

Mrs. Harner, who has worked at the restaurant for 19 years, said she saw the problems developing.

"I waited on the first table Oct. 10, 1975, and I waited on the last table Jan. 27, 1994," said Mrs. Harner. "I sensed it [the closing] for the last few months. Business was going down and he [Mr. Rebert] had raised the prices and things."

Mrs. Harner said she did not know much about Mr. Rebert's finances, but she was aware that the restaurant was having problems.

"Our [pay] checks bounced. All of us had at least two checks that we couldn't cash," she said. "They later gave us personal checks, and all of mine have cleared as of last Wednesday."

Mr. Rebert said he was not aware that his employees could not cash their checks. "We had two employee meetings and all that was resolved," he said.

Mrs. Harner said she recalled one meeting where Mr. Rebert gave employees checks and told them not to cash them. He also told workers that he planned to reopen the inn today.

Other financial problems were evident.

"We were out of propane [gas] and it was never refilled. For about a week to 10 days, food was prepared on a two-burner electric stove and a toaster over," Mrs. Harner said.

Mr. Rebert blamed the harsh weather for his restaurant's woes.

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