The Montgomery County Office of Consumer Affairs has filed a lawsuit seeking $97,500 in damages from former Redskins cornerback Michael T. Bass for allegedly deceiving area residents who invested in a Bahamas condominium he owned.
The suit filed Tuesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court against Bass and Southair International Club, Inc., the vacation resort club he heads, alleges that the club failed to provide vacation accommodations as promised or sent vacationers to condominiums that were unsafe and unsanitary.
Bass's attorney, Michael Lieberman, yesterday said, "We want to make good the terms of the agreement [with club members] as best as we are able and that's always been our intention." Lieberman refused to comment on any of the specific allegations in the suit.
Bass bought the 18-unit condominium in Freeport as an investment in 1975. He then sold about 150 memberships in his club to ivestors, who paiod between $950 and $5,000.
Depending on their investment, club members were entitled to visit the Channel House condominiums for a specified number of weeks each year, according to the suit.
In addition, members were told they could exchange their vacation time at Channel House for an equal amount of time at any of 120 resorts worldwide. This service was made available through Resort Condominiums International, a condominium-sharing service to which Bass subscribed.
However, the suit charges that Bass and Southair:
Failed to provide loidgings arranged for, both at Channel House and at other resorts.
Failed to confirm or make advance payment on reservations at other resorts.
Failed to refund enrollment and membership fees to members who lost their accommodations.
The suit asks the court to award $47,500 in restitution to club members affected by the alleged deceptions. The suit also asks the court to assess $50,000 in punitive damages against Bass and to order him to cease the allegedly deceptive practices.
For a time after Bass bought Channel House, the venture was profitable, according to attorney Charles Docter. A U.S. court judge appointed Docter trustee for the Channel House last August when Bass filed for bankruptcy.
But things went financially downhill for Bass after an injury prompted him to leave the Redskins in the fall of 1977, according to his attorney. "The Redskins didn't pay him his salary, he received no workman's compensation and his credit was cut off. It just started a vicious circle," Lieberman said. Bass currently is suing the Redskins for more than $20,000. Docter is attempting to settle these lawsuits.
While Bass's finances apparently dwindled, the Channel House began to deteriorate, according to complaints received by the consumer affairs office.
"In the suite that was provided, the bathroom ceiling fell to the floor. The management informed us that due to poor construction this happened frequently.
"Kitchen cabinets were in disrepair, causing water to leak in the cabinet and onto the floor below," according to a letter Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Meyers of Silver Spring wrote to the Consumer Affairs Office after an April 1978 stay at the Channel House.
When Hyattsville resident C. Edith Booker arrived at the Channel House with three friends last July, they found the resident manager had no record of their reservations and no units available, according to her complaint to the county office.
When she finally found accommodations at the complex, Booker told the Consumer Affairs Office, "The toilet was coming loose from the floor; the shower curtain barely reached the top of the tub; and the cabinets in the kitchen were dirty and contained some dead bugs."
Later that fall, a New Jersey member of Resort Condominiums International, found the electricity at the Channel House turned off because the bill had not been paid. The swimming pool was green with algae.
"In general, the place was in bad shape and uninhabitable," he said in a complaint ot RCI. RCI investigated the complaints and in April 1978 terminated the Channel House's three-year contract.
In a March 1978 letter of termination, an RCI attorney told Bass that he was no longer allowed to offer prospective purchasers the chance to trade their Bahamas vacation time for time at other RCI resorts.
But Bethesda resident Katherine Karant said during an interview yesterday that she and her retired husband were promised 12 weeks worth of vacations abroad when they paid Bass $1,950 in April.
When Karant called RCI at its Indianapolis headquarters she found out about Bass's contract being canceled.
"This was a case of total misrepresentation . . . We cannot let someone . . . victimize people, especially retired people trying to take an economical vacation," she said. CAPTION: Picture, MIKE BASS . . . involved in consumer affairs suit