Former Embassy Row Hotel Engineer Weighs in on Guest Safety

The former director of engineering at the Embassy Row Hotel on DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C. says that homeless people would sporadically get into the hotel, go up to guest floors, push on doors to see which ones were open, get into rooms where they could and either sleep in the rooms or steal items from the rooms.

Brandon Gardner made the claim in a sworn declaration filed in the case of Marie Walcek, a lawyer who works for a nurses union in Oakland, California. Gardner worked at the hotel from about 2010 to 2015.

In May 2015, Walcek flew to Washington D.C. for a business meeting.

She checked into her room at the Embassy Row Hotel off DuPont Circle, closed the door behind her, put her purse and wallet on the floor next to her bed and fell asleep.

When she woke, Walcek realized that someone had taken the contents of her wallet – including cash and credit cards.

The intruder or intruders, who were never apprehended, spent the next several hours making purchases with Walcek’s credit cards at various locations in and around the District of Columbia.

Walcek is suing The Embassy Row Hotel and its parent corporation Destination Hotels and Resorts claiming negligence.

The same night (May 18, 2015) that Walcek’s room (718) was burglarized, the guest or guests in the room next door (Room 716) also complained of someone pushing on the door.

“On several occasions prior to May 18, 2015, people had gotten into the hotel and gone up the stairwells to the guest room floors,” Gardner says in the declaration. “From there they would go onto a floor and push on all the doors, testing to see if the doors were latched properly. When they found one that was open, they would go in, either to steal things, or to sleep there. This happened sporadically, a handful of times during the time I was employed at the Embassy Row Hotel.”

“We occasionally found homeless people sleeping in a guest room, or in a meeting room, or in the housekeeping closets throughout the hotel.”

Gardner said he would discuss these incidents with Vany Sudjana, the director of rooms at the hotel at the time.

“When we discussed the two complaints from Room 716 and Room 718, it appeared to me that someone had again gotten into the hotel, gone to the 7th floor and pushed on all of the guest room doors,” Gardner said. “I believe Ms. Sudjana reached the same conclusion.”

Gardner said the guest rooms at the hotel had a spring-loaded hinge, which made them close automatically.

“They also had a smoke seal around them,” Gardner said. “Sometimes the smoke seal would prevent the door from latching properly. The spring-loaded hinge would swing the door closed, so that it appeared to be locked, but the smoke seal would prevent the lock from engaging. As a result, guests sometimes left their doors closed, but not locked, without realizing it.”

“We knew that the smoke seals were preventing the spring-loaded hinges from closing and latching guest rooms properly before May 2015, and were working on solutions,” Gardner said. “My recommendation was either to replace the smoke seals or to remove them entirely. When I left the Embassy Row Hotel in August or September 2015, the smoke seals were still in place.”

Walcek is attempting to obtain evidence from the hotel relating to the complaint from the room next door.

The hotel claims the evidence is not relevant to Walcek’s case.

But on July 17, a DC Superior Court judge issued an order to produce that and other evidence.

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