In Regard to bill HB1387 PDF   which would require a private club permit applicant in a dry territory to obtain the approval of the city or county governing body before the applicant could receive a permit.

No Checks and Balances for the ABC Board

Dear Mayor, City Councilman, Justice of the Peace:

Can you help the people of Arkansas regain local control by taking the decisions from a board of unelected bureaucrats. Surely local control by the citizenry is worth fighting for.

Look at the documented information below this e-mail and I believe you will consider this a real problem.

There has to be some way to reign in the unlimited power of the ABC Board. According to what attorneys have told me (and according to cases I have seen) the ABC Board has power over any city council, any county quorum court; over any county judge, and any Chief of Police. The ABC Board is sovereign and its rule is final. And even taken to the next step in court, all the court can do is review the procedures that the ABC Board went through and cannot rule whether that Club can or cannot have a permit. The court can only refer it back to the ABC Board because the court can only refute policy in the procedure at the court level. There should be no board so powerful that it is not subject to a court’s ruling. Note the three cases below where the court remanded the cases back to ABC Board but changed nothing.

The citizens of your county who are concerned about their rights and safety need you to take a stand against the appalling disregard of local elected officials by the ABC Board  when making decisions, particularly in dry counties. I have enclosed proof of that below in this e-mail. This decision is critical to the protection of local control. I cannot over emphasize how important this is to this community. One example of the negative consequences is the fact that after several private clubs in the Downtown Jonesboro area were given licenses to sell alcohol, calls for police to the area (359 calls in 2011) was three times higher for the same area in 2005 (101 calls). Also, be sure to note the statistics at the bottom of this e-mail about The Cost of Alcohol Use by Youth.

I was informed a couple of days ago that the leadership of the Arkansas Municipal League decided to oppose HB1387 which would require a private club permit applicant in a dry territory to obtain the approval of the city or county governing body before the applicant could receive a permit. I will have to say I was deeply disappointed when I learned of that decision. The reason given for the county Quorum Court to be against it was because it would result in divisiveness on the Quorum Court. I am not sure of the reason the Municipal League is opposed to it.

Mayor, as a duly elected representative of the people I think you will see from the information I have sent you, the importance of taking these decisions away from the unelected bureaucrats of the ABC Board and returning the control to the local communities. Local control is the bedrock of democracy. I cannot believe the Arkansas Municipal League approves of the current situation where the people's voice is ignored almost completely.

The argument that this could or would be divisive to a Quorum Court or City Council is a stretch for an argument. I have no doubt that comes from someone who is strongly in favor of these private clubs. The justices and councilmen should want to make those decisions and take the responsibility for doing so away from those un-elected bureaucrats who don’t give a rip about our local people and their wishes. I think you will see from the facts included in this e-mail that it is absolutely true they care more about granting alcohol permits than they do the wishes of the people.

Contrary to what some may have been led to believe, there are no checks and balances for the ABC Board. The Sheriff and Prosecuting Attorney both receive a letter (I think it is a form) asking them to say whether they are against a permit or not. The Chief of Police and Mayor also receive one if the permit is in a municipality. If anyone of these express opposition then the ABC Director is obligated by law to deny the permit and have a public hearing before the full Board.

That, however, does not obligate the Board in anyway to deny a permit. The fact is they grant a great many of them even when there is strong opposition. Below I have included five examples of decisions they have made in the past over very strong opposition. The same information is in the attachments. The first one included below was several months ago in Stone County.

Please read the following information and I feel certain that you will disagree with that decision by the leadership of the Municipal League.

  Included below:

·       ABC Board Too Powerful -  Not Even Subject to Court

·       ABC Board Makes Its Own Interpretation of the Act 1813 Law

·       Testimony of citizens attending ABC Board hearings;

·       Three cases where Citizens went to Court, and Court disagreed with ABC Board's decision, and remanded it back to the ABC Board but Board did not change their decision in the 2nd hearing.  Summary of 5 cases with overwhelming support for denial of license but still granted by ABC Board.

·      Statistics on Cost of Alcohol Use by Youth

ABC BOARD TOO POWERFUL -  NOT EVEN SUBJECT TO COURT 

According to what attorneys have told me (and according to cases I have seen) the ABC Board has power over any city council, any county quorum court; over any county judge, and any Chief of Police. The ABC Board is sovereign and its rule is final. And even taken to the next step in court, all the court can do is review the procedures that the ABC Board went through and cannot rule whether that Club can or cannot have a permit. The court can only refer it back to the ABC Board because the court can only refute policy in the procedure at the court level. There should be no board so powerful that it is not subject to a court’s ruling. Note the three cases below where the court remanded the cases back to ABC Board but changed nothing.

ABC Board makes own interpretation of Act1813

Legislators who voted for this bill disagree with ABC interpretation

At a Board hearing for a private club license in Batesville on 1/18/04, the ABC Board made the interpretation that the addition of five words to the private club law means they can legally grant a non-profit, private club license to a for-profit, public restaurant.

Board Chairman Ron Fuller made this statement at that hearing, "I think the legislature passed that thing 100 to zip and the senate did very much the same thing and it went right on through, so we operate under what they send us." This statement seems to imply that the legislature actually gave them a mandate to grant non-profit, private-club liquor licenses to for-profit restaurants.

The truth is, HB2749, now Act 1813, only passed the legislature by one vote. The bill received only 63 votes in the House and 18 in the Senate. One vote less in the Senate and the bill would have failed.

This is the Act which the ABC Board is using to fill our dry counties with alcohol contrary to the vote of the people.The senator who sponsored HB2749 in the Senate stated that he did not make the same interpretation as did the Board.

Another senator who voted for HB2749 wrote a letter to the Board telling them that Act 1813 was never intended to allow the Board to grant alcohol permits to public, for-profit clubs. He encouraged the Board to, "re-examine your present misguided interpretation of the law..."

The Board has ignored these senators and continues to grant permits with their own interpretation of the law.

        KAIT Channel 8, Mar. 20, 2004 reporting on Rally in Little Rock - Opponents of liquor are fearful that every restaurant applying for a license will now be granted one.

"Piero's and one in Batesville were recently granted by our board based on that interpretation of the law and our interpretation of the law," said ABC Board Member Ron Fuller.

State Representative Chris Thyer of Jonesboro who is also an attorney voted in favor of Act 1813. He interprets the law differently."People from my mother on down the line have called me saying Chris you voted for liquor by the drink at Piero's -- no I didn't," said Thyer. "I voted for this particular law that would allow for alcohol in convention centers and other large establishments like that to help them promote tourism."

TESTIMONY OF CICITIZENS ATTENDING AN ABC BOARD HEARING

I attended the ABC Board hearing in 2008 on allowing a liquor license for a restaurant in Jonesboro, Arkansas which is a dry county. I was never so shocked in my life as to the unprofessional actions of the ABC Board Chair and the other members. It was a classic example of a kangaroo court where the case was decided before the hearing. The attorney opposing the license was treated with total contempt, upbraided by the Board Chair several times, and told that the board would allow the attorney to present his case because they had to and that they would listen only as long as they were required to do. I am still shocked every time I remember that day. The board Chair would close his eyes, lean back in his chair and appear to be asleep, scowl, and squirm in his seat. I have pictures that I took that day that illustrate the contempt showed to those opposing the liquor license in a dry county. I have been told by others that this is typical behavior.

Debbie Pelley, 2209 Indian Trails Street, Jonesboro, Arkansas, dpelley@suddenlink.net 870-935-9438.

Larry Thomas of Heber Springs speaking to 1,000 concerned citizens from across the state at

Alcohol Rally in Little Rock on May 30, 2009

"Let me explain how we (statewide group to deal with private club situation) did come into existence. We came into existence because of something that happened in Cleburne County that had to do with the Alcohol Beverage Control Board (ABC) - when all of the city officials of our community in Heber Springs and Cleburne County signed a petition, and some went before the ABC Board and testified against the Club that was about to be granted a license, or we assumed that it would be. And because, in my opinion, of the rude treatment that they received when they were there, I am talking about Chiefs of Police, talking about County sheriffs, I am talking about Mayors; I am talking about Councilmen that we don't believe got a fair shake. And the only reason they were there was because of the safety of our citizens in Cleburne County, and that is why they took their stand for that and suffered because of their stand, and their testimonies were not considered as it should be in the laws of our land." "I don't know how many I have talked to in our state that told me it is useless; it is a waste of time to go down there any more. We don't carry any weight. Mayors don't carry any weight. Sheriffs don't carry any weight. Police chiefs don't carry any weight. We have no clout. They make their rulings, and it is hopeless."

3 CASES APPEALED TO COURT - REMANDED BACK TO ABC BOARD

ABC MAKES SAME DECISION AGAIN

The people of Jonesboro who were in opposition to a permit hired an attorney for $2,500 to represent them before the ABC Board. The board granted the permit and the attorney appealed to the circuit court. The people paid the attorney another $2,500 to represent them there. The circuit court decided in favor of the opposition and remanded the case back to the ABC Board. The people paid the attorney another $2,500 for that board hearing. The board made the same decision as the time before. That case cost the people $7,500 and did nothing but go in a circle with not a thing to show for all of the expense and trouble. Is this a broken system or not?

Two other cases had similar outcomes. Attorney Jay Shell in Batesville opposed Josie’s before the ABC Board. He appealed to the courts and the court remanded it back to the ABC Board. The board did exactly the same thing as they did to the Jonesboro case. What do you do?

The third case was for Bayou Bistro in Magnolia in 2007. The exact same thing happened there. The case was remanded back to the ABC Board and they made the exact same decision. This happened not too long ago.

People from all across Arkansas - from Craighead County to Boone County to Cleburn County to Columbia County to Crawford County to Faulkner County to Lonoke County to Sharp County to Lincoln County to Columbia County to Saline County to Independence County to Pope County to White County and more - have gone before the ABC Board in opposition to alcohol permits in their dry counties and quickly discovered it was pretty much futile to even try to win before the ABC Board. Most went home demoralized to the point of never opposing another permit. This then makes it appear that everyone is happy with the situation. And they are not.

Can you help the people of Arkansas regain local control by taking the decisions from a board of unelected bureaucrats. Surely local control by the citizenry is worth fighting for.

Incredible decision by ABC Board at hearing for permit in Stone County

May 16, 2012

OPPOSITION TO PERMIT:

At a Alcoholic Beverage Control Board permit hearing for Angler’s Resort in dry Stone County:

299 individuals registered written opposition to the permit.

100 individuals appeared at the hearing in opposition.

Letters of opposition were presented to the Board from the following 6 elected officials:

1. Stone County Judge / 2. Mountain View Mayor / 3. Stone County Sheriff / 4. Mountain View City Clerk

5. Stone County’s State Senator / 6. Prosecuting Attorney.

 Testimony at the hearing in opposition to the permit came from the following 5 residents of Stone County:

1. Dr. Ron Simpson, Chief of Staff of the Stone County Medical Center

2. Bill Avey, former enforcement officer & admin. manager of California Alcohol Beverage Control Commission;

3. Jo Jo Mitchell, owner of Jo Jo’s Catfish Wharf

4. Sissy Jones, original owner of Anglers and a long time business operator in Stone County

5. Jim Hinkle, Stone County banker, businessman and former Arkansas Game and Fish Commissioner.

SUPPORT FOR THE PERMIT:

Only 41 individuals appeared at the hearing in support

Only 3 witnesses testified in favor of the permit. None of them lived in or owned property in Stone County and only one worked in Stone County.

Quote from spokesperson for opposition: These 5 unelected bureaucrats have circumvented the electoral process and imposed their will on 12,000 Stone County residents with no regard for the public welfare and with no accountability to the citizens of Stone County?

WAS THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE DONE?

WHERE IS LOCAL CONTROL?

 

PERMIT GRANTED BY ABC BOARD

on June 21, 2006

Caliente Club near DeQueen in Sevier County

OPPOSITION:

Two state senators sent letters of opposition to the ABC Board.

The Sheriff sent a letter of opposition.

The prosecuting attorney sent a letter of opposition.

The Quorum Court unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to the private club.

The chief deputy sheriff was opposed.

Chief of police was opposed.

All residents on Piney Road where the club is located were opposed.

There were slightly over1300 signatures and letters of opposition from citizens.

The opposition was castigated by the board because none of the elected officials showed up at the board hearing.

SUPPORT FOR THE PERMIT APPLICATION:

The applicant had only 1,307 names in favor of the permit.

No elected officials were in favor.

A former county judge was in favor.

WHERE WAS THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE IN THIS DECISION?

WHERE IS LOCAL CONTROL?

 

PERMIT GRANTED BY ABC BOARD

to Josie’s in Batesville, Independence County on November 22, 2005

OPPOSITION:

State Senator wrote letter of opposition.

The sheriff wrote letter of opposition.

The prosecuting attorney was opposed to the permit.

Four city councilmen opposed the permit. Three testified in person before the board.

A justice of the peace testified in opposition.

Two pastors spoke against the permit.

The Director of Graceland Baptist Academy spoke against it.

Retired fire chief and public safety officer with 29 years of public safety testified against the permit.

Over 3,200 letters of opposition were presented.

SUPPORT FOR THE PERMIT:

Only 5 prominent citizens listed below, none of them elected officials, spoke in favor of the permit.

1. Jack Lassiter, Interim Chancellor of University of Arkansas Community College in Batesville.

Reason for support of permit: The college will have an internship program where a person will take classes on campus but will also train in an internship at the restaurant. However, Mr. Lassiter admitted that the alcohol permit is not significant in his decision to begin such a program. He said they would be there if the restaurant was operating without a permit.

2. Wally Roettger, President of Lyons College in Batesville.

Reason for support of the permit: "The question for me is does Mr. Carpenter have the right to make a living with a restaurant in Batesville".

3. Debbie Allen, former Batesville Chamber of Commerce President and CEO.

Claimed she did a poll of Chamber members and a majority favored the permit. However, attorney Jay Shell called 11 members of the Chamber and none of them indicated they favored the permit.

4. Leroy Blankenship, ex-legislator, prosecutor, and judge.

Reason for wanting the permit in his own words, "I’d like to drink a glass of wine".

5. Pat Jones, general manager and publisher of Batesville Daily Guard.

Reason for wanting the permit granted: "The bottom line for me on this is, if this venture should fail we can take our city backhoe to the historic, beautiful Lockhouse and push that sucker in the river. Because there’s not gonna be another Steve Carpenter with his enthusiasm to come to Batesville and put in a proven successful family owned restaurant."

2200 signatures were presented in favor of the permit. Some, if not many, from outside the county.

State Representative Chaney Taylor wrote letter in support of permit.

WHERE IS THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE IN THIS DECISION?

 DECISION MADE BY ABC BOARD

About July of 2002

For The Town of Bassett in Mississippi County (A wet county)

The permit applicant had a beer joint which he wanted to turn into a private club to be able to sell mixed drinks.

OPPOSITION TO THE NEW PERMIT WAS STRONG IN THE COMMUNITY AS SHOWN BELOW:

The mayor was opposed to this permit

The city clerk was opposed

About 70 of the 168 citizens, which is virtually all of the registered voters in Bassett, signed a petition in opposition to the granting of the permit, as did about thirty of the nearby residents just outside the town.

SUPPORT FOR THE PERMIT WAS AS FOLLOWS:

Only 6 residents of Bassett and 29 nearby residents signed their names to a petition in support of the permit. These 35 names were included on a petition of 300 names supporting the permit request.

83 of these 300 signatures gave no address.

36 others were actually from other counties, although not necessarily that far away.69 of the 300 were from Osceola which is 16 + miles away and has at least four alcohol permits.23 of the 300 names were from Joiner which is only 2 miles away and has 2 alcohol permits.29 of those names were from Wilson which is four miles away and has at least one alcohol permit.

5 of those 300 were from remote counties in Arkansas, and 8 of the signatures indicated they were from other states.

WAS THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE DONE?

WHERE IS LOCAL CONTROL?

 

 DECISION MADE BY ABC BOARD

in July or August of 2002

Amy’s Place in Lincoln County

This case involved a private club permit being granted to Amy’s Place in Lincoln County over the objection of a large portion of the populace, as well as virtually all of the elected officials in the area.

OPPOSITION CONSISTED OF THE FOLLOWING:

The prosecuting attorney for that judicial district

The deputy prosecuting attorney for Lincoln County

The sheriff was opposed to the permit

The county judge opposed to the permit.

The prosecutor and county judge both testified in person before the board

The Lincoln County Quorum Court unanimously passed a non-binding resolution opposing the permit with only one member abstaining.

The Justice of the Peace for the district was opposed to the permit.

Over 700 signatures were obtained in opposition.

No police department or mayor was involved since this was not in a municipality

SUPPORT FOR THE PERMIT:

Only 174 petition signatures were in favor of the permit. (Based on other petitions similar to this one, many of the names were possibly from outside of the community.)

WHERE WAS THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE IN THIS DECISION?

WHERE IS LOCAL CONTROL?

 

 COSTS OF ALCOHOL USE BY YOUTH

in 2010 dollars

                        Youth Violence                         $35,094,000,000

                        Youth Traffic Accidents               9,955,900,000

                        High-Risk Sex, Ages 14-20          5,184,000,000

                        Youth Property Crime                  5,138,500,000

                        Youth Injury                                 2,133,300,000

                        Poisonings and Psychoses           657,000,000

                        Fetal Alcohol Syndrome             1,307,200,000

                        Youth Alcohol Treatment            2,574,900,000

                        TOTAL                                      $62,045,200,000

This is the equivalent of $199.12 for every man, woman, and child in the United States.

Source: Levy, D.T., Miller, T.R., & Cox, K.C. (2003). Underage drinking: societal costs and seller profits. Working Paper. Calverton, MD: PIRE.

Thank you so very much.

Bob Hester

Posted by Women Action Group Feb 25, 2013

wpaagorg@gmail.com