Dillon officials repeal, admit to not understanding ‘duty to report’ mandate
Ryan Summerlin March 5, 2014
A law requiring Dillon bar and restaurant owners to report to law enforcement officials certain disturbances that take place at their establishments or face criminal penalties has been repealed.
On Tuesday, March 4, the Dillon Town Council voted unanimously to strike the requirement just two weeks after approving the ordinance by a vote of 5-1. Councilman Erik Jacobson was the only dissenting vote Feb. 18 when the ordinance was passed. Councilman Tim Westerberg was absent from the Feb. 18 meeting.
In its original form, the ordinance set out to update town code that sets rules and regulations for local businesses that serve alcohol.
In addition to more clearly defining what is considered prohibited behavior at bars and restaurants — such as serving underage people, rowdiness and the loitering of habitual drunkards — the ordinance added a “duty to report” clause and implemented two new criminal penalties that could be assessed to business owners should they or their employees fail to report a prohibited disturbance to the Dillon Police Department.
The new law was pushed by former Dillon town manager Joe Wray, who said during last month’s meeting he had not vetted the proposal through the local business community. Following its passage, the business community raised issues with the new law and claimed the duty-to-report clause violated the Colorado Constitution.
During the town council’s pre-meeting workshop, town attorney Mark Shapiro confirmed that the Colorado Revised Statutes do not include a duty-to-report clause regarding state liquor laws, but he defended the constitutionality of the original ordinance, saying similar mandates are in place in numerous municipalities, including the towns of Breckenridge, Frisco and Silverthorne.
Nonetheless, the town council repealed the ordinance, but only the duty-to-report clause and the accompanying criminal penalties. The repeal went into effect immediately after the vote.
Prior to voting to repeal the ordinance, Mayor Ron Holland addressed a room full of local business owners, pledging that he and the rest of town council would take a more active role in future town code decisions. Holland is term-limited and will no longer be in office after the middle of next month.
“I didn’t understand what I was voting on when I voted for this ordinance and I take responsibility for that,” Holland said. “This does not mean we are not going to readdress this, but we’re going to do it appropriately, such as inviting the business community to participate in the process.”
The town council also discussed the ordinance during its regular pre-meeting workshop, in which several council members joined Holland in admitting they did not fully understand the original ordinance prior to its passage or, in Councilwoman Terry King’s case, voted in favor of it because she assumed it was in line with state law.
“We have egg on our faces right now,” Holland said. “This makes us look like a council that doesn’t know what it is doing.”
But Councilman Tim Westerberg cautioned the council from sending the wrong message to the business community, saying a repeal of the duty-to-report clause does not mean business owners are excused from reporting incidents to the police. He also attempted to clear the consciences of his fellow town council members.
“We can be critical of ourselves, but we routinely modify things like the traffic code based on changes at the state,” Westerberg said. “I don’t look at those line by line. At some point we have to trust staff and their recommendations.”
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