Disciplinary hearings ordinance change gets shot down

Disciplinary HearingsAt Monday’s Licensing & Permit Committee meeting, the proposed ordinance change sponsored by the committee was unanimously approved without the change that Alderperson David Bogdala, 17th district, first presented at the Common Council meeting last week.  To read what was discussed at that meeting, click here:  “Liquor License Quota Ends.”

Bogdala again brought up the language that had been discussed with Chairman Jesse Downing two weeks ago.  The amendment was to add the language, “or any other person where there is a contractual client relationship of trust or reliance.”  He cited the rationale as being the Supreme court decision.  The language comes from it.  He felt that was in the spirit of the ordinance.  He wanted to make sure someone had an actual relationship with the licensee being heard at the hearing.  He wanted it to coincide with the Supreme Court decision.  He felt that it would avoid undue litigation moving forward.

Alderperson Curt Wilson moved that the language remain as is and be moved on to the February 4th Common Council meeting.

Alderperson Anthony Kennedy said that he felt that “the language violated the spirit of the amendment.”  He again reiterated what he said at the January 7th Common Council meeting.  He felt that “the amendment defeated the spirit of what we’re trying to do.  This is for disciplinary hearings only.  Who can represent who.   It’s for people who don’t speak English, for example.  A person is using an interpreter, for example, ad they are the licensee’s cousin.  We want to make sure the person speaking understands the process.   It’s a gray area in the ordinance; we want to define it better.  The amendment violates the spirit.  We gave a lot of leeway.  This affords greater protection to the applicant.  I support Wilson’s motion.”

Alderperson Patrick Juliana asked Steve Cain, the committee’s counsel what his thoughts were.  He wanted to know if the committee has the sole discretion to allow or disallow, and Cain said yes.  “The disciplinary hearings come before this body, a quasi-judicial body,” he said.  “The Supreme Court ruling that the alderman is citing is for courts and tribunals.  We’re not exactly that.  I would suggest moving ahead with the ordinance, as originally proposed.”

Cain further stated that a person could represent himself before this committee, but if that same person had to appear in circuit court, he/she would then have to be represented by an attorney.  “Plus,” he further stated, “corporate entities, LLC’s, etc., have to be represented by an attorney.  It gives more flexibility for LLC’s to have their members, partners, represented here.  It would make it consistent to what a circuit court would require.  The 1977 case that was cited is not applicable to our situation.  It had to do with a non-profit organization and a housing issue.”

Chairman Jesse Downing said that he had been in phone contact with Bogdala on the night of the Common Council meeting.  “On the phone, it sounded good,” he said.  “Then, he e-mailed me the changes.  The ‘any other person’ language nullifies the proposed ordinance.”

Juliana then made a motion to defer until February 4th.

Kennedy then asked Matt Knight, assistant city attorney, a question.  He said that he didn’t see the solicitation part that he had asked for.  He then explained his thought process behind it; he didn’t think it was right to be soliciting others for business during the meetings.  Knight said it was in the draft that came before the Common Council.  He did not attend the meeting, and he thought that it was just a timing issue.  Knight did say that he thought that issue went beyond the Licensing & Permit Committee; it should apply to any city meeting.  He gave another example:  a real estate agent talking with developers.  Knight thought it was outside the scope of Chapter 10 (Alcohol Beverages), that it should possibly appear in Chapter 1 (City Government).  Cain said that he thought that the solicitation question may present 1st amendment issues.  He said that he didn’t believe “it would pass muster.”

Going back to the proposed ordinance change, Cain said that Bogdala might be confusing the two.  “This body in this building, and representation at a circuit court,” said Cain.  Bogdala then said that it was evident to him that this was not going to move forward.  “Now, it’s who can talk to who at a meeting.  I understand the spirit.  Protections moving forward.  It’s a slippery slope.  Next, you’ll want to banish consultants, real estate agents.  It’s a license issue, not circuit court.  That’ll be the next step down the road.”

Bogdala asked Downing if, between now and February 4th, he could clear up the issue that he and Downing had a conversation on January 3rd.  They did discuss the ordinance and the amendment, and Downing had no problem with it.  Then, he had a change of heart with the man from the 7th district (Juliana).  He just wanted it made clear to all.

Juliana asked Knight about allowing citizens to make comments in all meetings.  The answer was yes.  Knight then said that a clever business owner has several ways that he can get experts in a certain area to provide information other than calling them as witnesses in these hearings.  “As Cain said, we can permit that.  The ordinance presents a more specific representation relationship.  I argued and presented positions, plus other attorneys.  The ordinance put those trained in the field to come before you and protect the person on a competence basis.”

Juliana stated that he was behind the ordinance for the reasons stated by both attorneys.  He said, “I’ve talked to employees and other people when the attorney represents the license holder.  It needed clarity.  I am backing the motion to approve as is for the February 4th meeting.”

The vote was 4 to 0 to approve the ordinance change without the amendment.






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