alcohol license renewal

Ongoing litigation between Pierce County Veterans, American Legion Post 181 muddles routine vote

What is typically a routine approval for city alcohol license renewals each year turned into a lengthy discussion and resulted in Blackshear Mayor Kevin Grissom casting a tie-breaking vote in favor of approval last week.

Members of American Legion Post 181 attended the meeting to question whether a license should be issued to Pierce County Veterans, Inc. The two organizations are reportedly involved in pending litigation regarding property transfer.

American Legion representative Ken Piestrak told council members Pierce County Veterans, Inc. is using the Legion’s employee identification number (EIN) issued by the IRS.

A court hearing regarding the litigation is reportedly scheduled for January.

Police Chief Chris Wright advised the council to approve  licenses as presented because the litigation has not yet been decided. The license can be revoked at a later date if necessary, Wright says.

“I don’t see anything that would stop that (from moving forward),” Wright said. “If there’s a problem, if they no longer meet the qualifications, the mayor has the authority to revoke that license.”

Councilman Charles Broady asked what the ramifications of not approving the license would be.

“They could potentially not be able to do business New Years Day … if they can’t display their license, they can’t sell alcohol,” Wright replied. “If everything is legal, we wouldn’t want to refuse their license.”

“We can’t assume how it comes out,” said Councilman Corey Lesseig, referencing the pending litigation.

Wright told council members he would consult with City Attorney Adam Ferrell on the matter and bring it before them at the January meeting if there was a problem.

Lesseig made a motion to approve the licenses. Councilman Keith Brooks provided a second, and Grissom asked for a roll call vote.

Broady, Timmy Sapp and Shawn Godwin abstained.

“I’m going to abstain too until we find out everything else,” Sapp commented, following Broady’s abstention.

Lesseig, Brooks and David Smith voted in favor. Grissom then broke the three-way tie in favor of approving the license renewals for 2020.

Grissom assured council members and American Legion representatives the matter would be looked into.

“We will follow up … (and) take care of that issue,” he said.

No one from Pierce County Veterans, Inc. was present last Wednesday. David Westberry, who applied for the license on behalf of the organization, did attend a meeting Tuesday night which was cancelled for lack of quorum.

Westberry requested the city consider approving local licenses in October or November next year to allow businesses adequate time to renew their state licenses by a December deadline. Grissom told Westberry the city would consider that suggestion in 2020.