BY ANDREAS BUTLER AND ASHLEY THOMAS
The newest member of the Halifax Area Advertising Authority (HAAA) was back in the spotlight this week after his hotel was accused of being the site of a methamphetamine lab.
Two people were arrested on April 29 by Daytona Beach police at the Heritage Inn at 1100 S. Ridgewood Ave. Methamphetamine, commonly referred to only as meth, speed or a variety of other street names is a white or yellowish crystal-like powder or pill that can be snorted, smoked, injected or swallowed.
Rich Haney, 42 and April Martin, 41, were arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine, according to a police report.
The incident brings back into the spotlight comments made by Daytona Beach Police Department Chief Mike Chitwood over Volusia County Councilwoman Joyce Cusack’s appointment of Heritage Inn owner Pravin “P.M.’’ Patel to the HAAA board.
The HAAA board is an 11-member volunteer board appointed by the county council that spends roughly $6 million on tourism advertising each year and advises the council.
‘Hotbed of criminal activity’
Patel was mentioned in recent articles in the Daytona Times and other local media after Chitwood referred to the hotel as “a hotbed of criminal activity” and questioned Patel’s appointment to the board.
Cusack was offended by the comment that appeared in the local daily newspaper.
The meth lab bust happened after hotel management called the police.
“I made my rounds at 5 p.m. and there was nothing going. Then around 6 or 7 p.m. we heard something sounding like gunshots so I called the police,” Patel told the Daytona Times.
Police responded to the scene and searched the area to find the source of the disturbance.
They were directed to room 15. When they arrived, Haney told them he and Martin were arguing.
According to the police report, authorities found an aluminum tube and foil with burn stains and substance residue. Tests confirmed it to be methamphetamine.
The hotel registry shows that Haney rented the room two days prior.
Patel: Maid found nothing suspicious
How such a lab could go unnoticed is a mystery. The hotel assures that it does regular housekeeping and security rounds.
“We have a maid and a security guard. They make their rounds. The maid told us she didn’t notice anything going on in the room. We check everyday,” Patel told the Times.
Chitwood told the Daytona Beach News-Journal the police department received 375 calls for service to the Heritage Inn from April 1, 2010, through April 1, 2012. Those calls included eight for drugs and five for prostitution.
Last week, Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm said that he has limited the chief’s comments to the media only to relations of crime.
Cusack said last week that she is ready to move forward and put the incident with her and Chitwood behind her.
“My point has been made. It is not the responsibility of the chief of police to vet my appointments,” she remarked.