BF to consider amendment to business licences

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After a lengthy workshop last month, the village of Bosque Farms council decided to move forward with the publication of amendments to an ordinance that will curb repeated bad behavior by local businesses.

At the April 17 council meeting, the councilors voted 4-0 to publish changes to its business registration and business license ordinances.

The changes would allow the village to revoke a village business's license if it violated the parameters of the license.

During a workshop in late March, councilors, the mayor, staff and village attorney discussed possible scenarios that could lead to the village revoking a business' license.

"How long are we going to let someone violate state law until we tell them to get out," asked Councilor Wayne Ake. "Maybe I'm too passionate about this, but for some reason these shady characters keep showing up here."

The quandary they faced seemed to be the line between an individual employee doing something illegal — such as selling illegal narcotics at the business — versus an illegal activity by the business itself — selling items it's not permitted to sell under its business license.

"What I'm trying to distinguish is how would we say a business owner knows what's going on versus what an employee has done outside of his other responsibilities," Councilor Russ Walkup said. "Say there's a business that sells plants. And an employee is selling pot plants. Is that business responsible? Will they lose their license?"

Village attorney David Chavez said if a business can show the actions of an employee was outside the scope of their employment, it wouldn't necessarily mean the business didn't have some civil responsibility, but it didn't automatically mean it would lose its license.

"If a business has a license to conduct business in the village, and (the license is) to sell e-cigarettes and no other products, if they do, they are in violation of the parameters of the license and the village can act," Chavez said.

Village clerk/administrator Gayle Jones said there had to be some other penalty, other than just the revocation of the license.

"What happens if they just thumb their nose and continue doing business," Jones asked.

If that were the case, Chavez said, the business would be in violation of doing business in the village without a license. The business can be cited into municipal court on such a violation, he said.

Village code enforcement officer Loretta Hatch asked if the village would need to wait for a court ruling before a license could be revoked.

Chavez said as an administrative function, the village wouldn't have to wait.

"But we have to remember rogue activity by an employee is very different than a violation of the terms of a business license," he said.

Ake said, in his opinion, if an employee committed a crime and was fired, that should be the end of the matter for the village.

"Then it becomes a criminal matter for the police," he said.

The councilors also debated whether a "three-strikes" method should be implemented or if a "once and done" attitude was better.

Jones suggested the village expand its existing revocation process, rather than setting up a three strikes system.

The councilors seemed to shy away from a policy so severe that only one violation would cause a business to lose its license.

"Some of these owners, we know them, we know who they are and what they won't allow," Ake said. "Just because they have a bad employee …"

Chavez made the point that sometimes, in cases of two people in business together, one is a "bad actor" in the situation.

"Should we say to the other person who wasn't a part of it, 'Well you can't do business here either,'" he said.

Jones said it seemed like the ordinance needed to address violations on a case-by-case basis.

Councilor Russ Walkup asked if that was defendable. Chavez said it was, so long as the village had a set of clearly defined standards it was applying in each case.

Jones said she would like to see the ordinance address violations of state and federal statutes.

"You already can't sell spice or stolen copper," she said. "If you are in noncompliance of state or federal statutes, I think you're done."

Wallace asked if the ordinance would apply to home occupations. Chavez said home-based businesses were issued a business license which came with provisions they had to comply with.

"If a home occupation violates the business license regulations then, the home occupation goes away," Hatch said.

Chavez said the violation would have to be related to the business activity, just like any other business in the village.

Hatch said in cases where she felt revocation should happen, there should be a public hearing in front of the city council.

"I would take it in front of you so you have all evidence, so there's due process," Hatch said. "I don't think someone in my position should be able to just walk into a business and shut it down."


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.