City attorney opines city’s alcohol sales compliance checks are legal

By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

After reviewing the opinion of City Attorney Tim Murphy regarding the legality of alcohol sales compliance checks conducted by the Caledonia Police Department, the Caledonia City Council agreed to send a copy of Murphy’s opinion to Dave and Kris Wedl and move forward with a one-day suspension of their liquor license.

At the Feb. 27 meeting, the council agreed to give the Wedls until March 16 to choose which Friday they would have their liquor license suspended. If the Wedls don’t respond by March 16, the city will determine which Friday in March or April to suspend the liquor license.

The owners of Good Times Restaurant challenged the legality of the compliance check at the Feb. 13 council meeting after the council had decided to suspend Good Times and Quillin’s liquor licenses for one Friday because both establishments had failed alcohol compliance checks conducted by the city police department.

The Wedls contended that the city ordinance, written in the 1950s, was outdated and questioned if it was still applicable. They pointed out there is no provision in the city’s ordinances that allows for compliance checks. They also questioned the legality of the police department to hire an underaged person to attempt to purchase alcohol, which is against the law.

At the Jan. 23 meeting, the council decided to allow both establishments to choose one Friday during the next three months when their licenses would be suspended. Quillian’s selected to have their license suspended on Friday, Feb. 10.

Murphy’s opinion

“If the employee that served the alcohol had challenged the process in the criminal proceedings and was found not guilty, it would be appropriate for the city to consider the propriety of the process,” Murphy stated in his opinion.

Murphy continued that the city ordinance states:

“The act of any employee on the licensed premises is deemed the act of the licensee as well and the licensee shall be liable to all penalties provided by this chapter and the law equally with the employee.”

“The council has the authority to impose the appropriate sanctions under Section 111.36 because the employee plead guilty and the act of an employee is deemed the act of the licensee (employer),” Murphy added.

In other council action:

Klug utility issue

The council spent some time reviewing a water line issue on the Phillip Klug property, located at 120 North Badger Street.

According to City Clerk/Administrator Jennifer Feely, Water/Wastewater Supervisor Tony Klug had explained that the water line situation at 120 North Badger Street is unique because it is shared with two other properties. The water line is comprised of old galvanized pipe, has been repaired for leaks on several occasions and needs to be replaced as soon as possible.

The city reviewed several options. The first would be to use directional boring and replace the water line. This option would eliminate tearing up the street.

The second option would be to continue repairing the leaks in the water line with patches. This option would require having portions of the street torn up.

In either case, the city would not pay for the work done, as water lines leading to private property are the property owners’ responsibility. The city would, however assess the property owners for the work done, so the cost could be spread out over a number of years.

Once cost estimates are developed, the property owners will decide which route they would like to have the city take.

The council took no action on this issue.

Wasterwater operator

While the city is currently advertising for a Class A operator to replace Tony Klug, who will be retiring at the end of the month, the council listened to a presentation by Chris Gutchow of PeopleService to contract for services for a Class A operator.

The contract would provide for a full-time operator, as well as many of the chemicals and supplies needed to operate the wastewater plant.

The difference between what the city had budgeted for 2012 and the proposed contract with PeopleService was $4,475 less.

The council didn’t take any action on this issue, but will revisit it at the March 12 meeting.

You can contact Charlie Warner at charlie.warner@ecm-inc.com

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