If you are an employee for any business within the City of Branson read the next sentence if you read nothing else! In spite of being devoid of common sense and compassion, it is the city of Branson’s current position that a mere employee can be charged with a violation of the Branson Municipal Code if the person they are working for doesn’t have the proper City of Branson business license and is not available when the inspector comes in to the business establishment. Under Section 1-11 of the Branson Municipal Code, such a violation is a misdemeanor and the penalty can be a fine of up to $500 or 90 days in jail or both.
On the evening of July 11 the Ole Seagull received an email from a person working in one of Branson’s retail stores. It said, “I would like very much to let you know about something that happened to me at the hands of our city government a few weeks ago… I work a 20 hr/wk job as cashier at a store … A city inspector came in on [June 29] and issued me a summons to appear in court July 14 for operating a business without a license. I later found out that the business license had expired a few weeks earlier.
“I called my mgr who called the owner who paid the renewal fee and mailed a copy of the new license to the mgr who put it up on the wall last week. I took a copy into the clerk of court with my summons and was given a form stating that I was pleading guilty to a crime. I refused and was told I have to appear in court and face charges on July 14. Isn’t this a strange way to become a criminal? I only answered a help wanted ad on the unemployment dept web site two months ago, was hired and showed up for work.”
The Ole Seagull read it with disbelief thinking, “There must be some mistake. What responsibility does a mere employee have for anything to do with the business license of the operator of the business? He went down to City Hall, talked with City Attorney William Duston who informed him there was no mistake.
It was his interpretation that the words “No person shall operate a business” meant the “senior person present at the time the summons was served.” So even though the business owner had since paid all fees and penalties associated with the license, the person to whom the summons was issued either had to appear in court or pay the $90.00 fine, court costs and plead guilty of violating the Branson Municipal Code.
It should be noted that at this point it’s no longer a licensing issue. The city has gotten all the fees and penalties for the failure to properly have the business licensed from the business owner. It was simply a matter of using common sense and, lacking that, compassion to insure that a mere employee, having nothing to do with operation of a business, except to perform their job, is removed from the position in which the city’s prostitution of its own law and abuse of power has placed them.
At the July 13 meeting of the Branson Board of Aldermen the Ole Seagull went over the situation as best he could in the five minutes allocated. Among other things he asked the board to make “sure that employees of the city of Branson cease and desist from the type of action I described tonight until the issue is resolved to your satisfaction.” City staff actually had more time to respond than the Ole Seagull had to present the situation and he was not afforded the courtesy of being able to respond to their one sided response which illustrated and old adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
The next day the Ole Seagull received an email from the employee saying, “I went in and paid the $90.00 fine rather than sit all day to see the judge. I had to sign a plea of guilty to do so. I dropped off a copy of the guilty plea at the office downtown in case you wanted to see what they make an old Marine go through in this town, just for wanting to have a part time job. I got to thinking about all the men who died face down in the mud just to protect city councils like this one.”
The city council has taken the matter under advisement. If we care enough to let our elected representatives know how we feel and that we expect our children, grandchildren, ourselves or anyone else employed in Branson to be treated with common sense and compassion rather than the abuse evidenced by this case things will change. If we are apathetic and don’t, it will be yet another illustration of the fact, “People get the kind of government they deserve.”