Workers cry foul over VR housing change
SUMMIT COUNTY – Vail Resorts is handing over management of its 3,000-plus employee housing units in Breckenridge, Keystone and Eagle County to a property management company, leaving resort employees worried about their apartments, their jobs and, in some cases, both.
What’s more, some employees said, the corporate decision is a reaction to more than $1 million in fraud and embezzlement from within the VR housing division. VR officials could not be reached to discuss the alleged connection, and a spokeswoman said the resort does not comment on personnel issues.
Come April 1, Scott Finch isn’t sure he’ll have a job. The Keystone Resort employee and resident works for the housing division as a maintenance man. He makes $11 an hour and pays just under $300 per month for a bed in the Sagebrush housing building – but he’s not sure if that will be true in three weeks.
VR is contracting with Denver-based Corum Real Estate Group. Corum will take over operations of the resort corporation’s 3,000 employee housing beds next month. Corum and VR officials said the move is intended to create efficiency.
“It’s totally affecting me,” Finch said. “I’m sure rents will go up. I’ve already tried to transfer to another department for a job, but I don’t know what will happen. Everyone I tell about this is like, “What’s going on? I haven’t heard a thing.'”
Cicely Crampton is a manager in Keystone’s housing office. Crampton said employees thought housing benefits would last through the end of the season. But she’s already found a house in Silverthorne for her husband, herself and their dogs.
Crampton said she interviewed for a job with Corum, “but I don’t know anything about this company.” She said the sense among housing employees – about 35 at Keystone, and 65 throughout Vail Resorts – is that full-time, year-round employees will be able to transfer, but seasonal employees will be out of a job.
“The employees are all in the dark,” Crampton said. “A lot of us are worried about medical benefits, too. Keystone won’t carry our benefits after March, and Corum employees don’t qualify until they’ve worked 30 days. So, it looks like we’d have to get COBRA to cover it for a month.”
Corum executive vice president Jamie Fitzpatrick said Tuesday that employees’ rents won’t go up without VR approval. He said jobs for housing employees are not yet completely figured out but that a job with Corum is a new opportunity.
Corum will attempt to “operate the portfolio as efficiently as possible,” Fitzpatrick said, but that doesn’t mean cutting jobs and expenses. The company will attempt to increase revenue by increasing rents in the summer and renting to tenants outside of VR employees.
“The landlord’s really the same,” Fitzpatrick said, referring to the rent costs. “And we can’t run this with nobody.”
Several current and former employees of VR’s housing divisions alleged the decision to out-source the operation also is related to fraud and embezzlement in the department. The workers said former directors and managers in the department are under investigation for misuse of funds, to the tune of more than $1 million.
VR officials could not be reached for comment on auditing issues. Law enforcement agencies would not confirm an investigation was in progress.
“It is for business reasons,” said VR spokeswoman Kelly Ladyga. “We’ve worked with (Corum) in the past. And we need to focus on running ski resort.”
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or email@example.com.
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