Lance Jack Revisited Part 2: State Law
Last week I wrote a post about Lance Jack’s resignation from city council and I promised to follow up with more information. This morning I wrote a post looking at whether granting Jack a liquor license violated local law. This is part two, in which I look at state law.
Before we get into state law, let’s start with a quote from city councilman and mayoral candidate Joel Fritzler in the original Southern Illinoisan article about the Fat Patties liquor license and Jack’s resignation:
“My feeling before was, if I were to vote for it, I would be an accessory to violating state and local law,” Fritzler said.
(14) Any law enforcing public official, including members of local liquor control commissions, any mayor, alderman, or member of the city council or commission, any president of the village board of trustees, any member of a village board of trustees, or any president or member of a county board; and no such official shall have a direct interest in the manufacture, sale, or distribution of alcoholic liquor, except that a license may be granted to such official in relation to premises that are not located within the territory subject to the jurisdiction of that official if the issuance of such license is approved by the State Liquor Control Commission and except that a license may be granted, in a city or village with a population of 50,000 or less, to any alderman, member of a city council, or member of a village board of trustees in relation to premises that are located within the territory subject to the jurisdiction of that official if (i) the sale of alcoholic liquor pursuant to the license is incidental to the selling of food, (ii) the issuance of the license is approved by the State Commission, (iii) the issuance of the license is in accordance with all applicable local ordinances in effect where the premises are located, and (iv) the official granted a license does not vote on alcoholic liquor issues pending before the board or council to which the license holder is elected. (Emphasis added.)
So far, we have five conditions a city council member must meet to get a liquor license. The city must have fewer than 50,000 residents (check), and the license has to be for a restaurant (check), and the State Commission must approve (check), and the license doesn’t violate local ordinance (check), and the official must abstain from voting on liquor issues (check). But the paragraph also forbids liquor commissioners from getting a license and there is no explicit exception for them. The relevant paragraph continues:
Notwithstanding any provision of this paragraph (14) to the contrary, an alderman or member of a city council or commission, a member of a village board of trustees other than the president of the village board of trustees, or a member of a county board other than the president of a county board may have a direct interest in the manufacture, sale, or distribution of alcoholic liquor as long as he or she is not a law enforcing public official, a mayor, a village board president, or president of a county board. To prevent any conflict of interest, the elected official with the direct interest in the manufacture, sale, or distribution of alcoholic liquor cannot participate in any meetings, hearings, or decisions on matters impacting the manufacture, sale, or distribution of alcoholic liquor.
There still isn’t a specific exception for members of a liquor control commission, but we should view that in light of the unique composition of Carbondale’s liquor control commission. In any comparable city, the mayor is the sole liquor commissioner.
We should also consider the list of “exceptions to the exception” in the act: law enforcing public officials, mayors, village board presidents, and presidents of a county board. Liquor commissioners aren’t specifically excepted from the exceptions either.
It seems to me that – as a result of Carbondale’s unusual liquor commission composition – the law is slightly vague as it relates to issuing liquor licenses to members of the liquor control commission.
It also seems to me that the general intent of the law is obvious. Members of city councils (who, in Carbondale, are members of the liquor commission) can be issued liquor licenses as long as they meet the five part test in the law. It seems clear that Lance Jack and Fat Patties met that test.
Councilman and mayoral candidate Joel Fritzler told the Southern Illinoisan he thought issuing the license would be illegal. The analysis I’ve provided here (and the ruling of the state liquor control commission) suggest that Fritzler is wrong.
I am going to give Fritzler the benefit of the doubt on this one and assume his stated objection is sincere. Maybe he misread or misinterpreted the law.
Still, if Fritzler believes it would be illegal to grant Fat Patties a liquor license while Lance Jack served on the city council/liquor commission, he should point to the sections of the law that prohibit granting Jack the license. If he can’t name a specific part of the law, he was wrong to vote against the Fat Patties liquor license.
Election season is coming, and those who seek public office should be willing to explain their positions on public issues. I hope Fritzler will explain the specific reasons for his votes against the Fat Patties liquor license.
I’ve covered Fritzler’s objections to the Fat Patties liquor license in two posts. I will discuss Mary Pohlmann’s May ’09 remarks about Jack in part 3. You can read that post here.