Many cities delegate liquor responsibility, risk

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— This week, the Steamboat Springs City Council will decide whether it wants to convene as the Steamboat Springs Liquor License Authority to consider reversing the controversial revocation of Kevin Nerney's liquor license.

In the weeks and months ahead, council members will decide whether they want to convene as the Liquor License Authority ever again.

Many Colorado communities similar to Steamboat Springs delegate liquor license decisions to an outside body such as a board, commission or hearing officer. Lately, there has been a push by some Steamboat Springs city officials - including Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski and City Clerk Julie Jordan - to do the same.

"I think it's a great idea," Jordan said. "I think (other communities) have all found success in having a separate entity, whether it be a board or other entity."

Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge and Glenwood Springs are mountain-resort communities that Steamboat often compares itself to for such things as sales tax revenues and employee salaries. All four have liquor license authorities separate from their city councils.

Officials with the Colorado Municipal League said Steamboat's arrangement is atypical for a city of its size.

"Generally speaking, most larger municipalities appoint citizens to a board," said Lisa White, spokeswoman for the Colorado Municipal League. White said Steamboat would be considered a larger municipality.

Hermacinski has argued against City Council serving as the liquor authority because of the liability concerns it raises.

"I firmly believe that the city should not be acting as the liquor licensing authority," she said.

According to the city's "Public Officials Liability Handbook," published by the Colorado Municipal League and the city's insurance provider, elected officials can reduce their risk of personal liability by focusing their "efforts on legislative and significant quasi-judicial decision-making" rather than those of an administrative nature.

"Reduced risks of personal liability : can be achieved by delegating : authority to specialized boards, commissions or job positions where particular expertise is necessary and the risk of litigation is greater (for example, establishing a beer and liquor licensing board to make or recommend licensing decisions)," the handbook reads.

The previous City Council voted 3-2 to revoke Nerney's liquor license after two days of quasi-judicial hearings. The hearings were in response to allegations that Nerney made unlawful sexual contact earlier this year with a patron at his bar. Nerney was found innocent of the charges in criminal court, but the council, acting as the Liquor License Authority, moved forward with the hearings nonetheless.

Employing a different standard of guilt, the previous City Council voted unanimously that Nerney was guilty of the charge. A majority of the council then proceeded to vote to strip Nerney of his license. He and his attorney are appealing the decision in District Court.

City Council President Loui Antonucci said the liquor license authority issue might be an example of the generalists on City Council not sticking to "City Council stuff." Jordan noted that City Council members already have "so much on their plate already" without the added responsibility of the liquor authority.

These are common issues raised in communities throughout the state, said Jeff Wilson, general counsel for the Colorado Municipal League. Wilson said governing bodies in these communities often reach a tipping point when they decide it is no longer appropriate for them to serve as the local liquor authority.

"Some of these governmental functions like liquor licensing benefit from having a local board with particular expertise in that area so that the generalists on the governing body don't end up doing this," said Wilson, who also noted the increased risk of litigation. "Liquor licensing is one of these areas where it can be very contentious. You can have a lot of concerns in the neighborhood about the need for another liquor-licensed facility, and you also have people making quite a bit of an investment in their business seeking these licenses. That's a prescription for litigation."

Jordan said that if the city decides to delegate the duties of the Liquor License Authority, the make-up of the entity it creates would be key. She said other communities have struggled with concerns arising from people trying to get on the local liquor authority board or commission for self-serving reasons. As such, Jordan's recommendation is for the authority to consist of a hearing officer with a legal background.

"Our community would be well served by a hearing officer," Jordan said.

In her research, Jordan has spoken with two other city clerks who have weathered in their communities the transition of the liquor license authority moving from the local governing board to a separate entity. Jordan said she doesn't think it would be a difficult transition, but said it would be important to educate the community about the change in procedure.

"I think the difficult part would be the public outreach," Jordan said.

Comments

ColoradoNative 7 years ago

This one sentence sums it up!

"Nerney was found innocent of the charges in criminal court, but the council, acting as the Liquor License Authority, moved forward with the hearings nonetheless."

Nerney was found INNOCENT in a court of law. A city council which no longer has the same face "went ahead" with their own hearing?

Give the guy his license back. The city council needs to focus on real issues that effect this community. He went thru the court process once. Time to move on.

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RoxyDad 7 years ago

Also:

As I recall Nerney was offered a 15 day suspension at the beginning of all of this and was a little to "cocky" to take the offer.

He has now tied up many hours of time from many people in government that are being paid by you and I.

He is costing us money and time that could be better spent on other matters.

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RoxyDad 7 years ago

ColoradoNative

Read the article in Todays paper by Towny Anderson (even if you don't like him)

It says: An alleged criminal act is tried in criminal court. An alleged violation of the Colorado Liquor Code is heard before the Liquor License Authority. This is the law. A violation of the Liquor Code is a violation of one of the standards defining good moral character. Complying with these standards is required to hold a license to serve alcohol. The evidence presented was sufficient to persuade the Liquor License Authority to unanimously conclude that a violation of Regulation 47-900B(3) occurred (vote: 5-0).

To further explain - Do you think O J Simpson is innocent? He was found innocent in a court of law, and was found guilty in a civil case. Just because Nerney was found innocent in a court of law does not mean he did not violate the provisions of havig a liquor license.

I at first was on Nerney's side until I looked further into the matter.

I agree with what council did and it was a difficult decision. Let's all move on. Life will not stop in Steamboat without the pirates pub.

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little_liza 7 years ago

I agree to the idea that our city council has too much on their plate. If we can help delegate their time better than where is the harm? If we can take the responsibilty of acting as the Steamboat Springs liqour authority away from them and give it to qualified individual(s) than so be it.

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justathought 7 years ago

(2nd posting)

Nerney was found not guilty of the charges in criminal court, so he didn't commit a crime. We've seen plenty of liquor establishments cited for serving minors, what does the code say about this? Isn't serving minors a crime? Why does serving minors get a suspension while Nerney (not guilty of a crime) loses his license? Why was a 15 day suspension an acceptable "punishment" before he went to court but changed to revoking his license after he was was found not guilty in a criminal court? What changed to make it a more "egregious" offense than when the suspension was offered? Did he so enrage the council by not admitting guilt that they had to "show him who was boss"?

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RoxyDad 7 years ago

Justathought.

What is the purpose of a settlement offer of 15 days when they don't take and and spend thousands of taxpayers dollars by going through the system. Should it then be offered again? No, the offer was there, he did not take it and this is the end result.

If there was no weight behind a settlement offer (no penalty if you don't take it and lose) then what is the purpose???

Offers are made to save time and money. If you don't take it and lose then you ......lose

Remember.. He did do something.

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RoxyDad 7 years ago

One more for just a thought

I was caught speeding once and went to court over it. My lawyer got me off with no offense. Does this mean I did not commit a crime or does it me I did not get penalized for the crime.

I commited the crime, but I did not get penalized.

Remember Those with the best lawyers go free. Just ask OJ

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RoxyDad 7 years ago

Outsiderlookihgin

How many times does it have to be said.

You don't have to be found guilty of a crime to be in violation of the rules of owning a liquor license.

There is no such thing as "he was not found guilty in a court of law, end of story"

also

Since the stipulations of owning a liquor DO NOT spell out the penalties for violations then city council DOES have the power to plea bargain.

Should there be changes to the process, you bet.

The Pub also does not have waitresses and bus staff. They are downstairs at the restaurant. The whole town of Steamboat is looking for employees desperately. They will find a new job in about 10 minutes.

Heck, I think Kevin could even get a job driving a bus for the city since we are in such a need for drivers and according to justathought andoutsiderlookingin he is a great guy.

Now everything is solved isnt it?

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outsiderlookingin 7 years ago

Look you are correct when you say that Kevin WAS offered a "DEAL" it wasn't 15 days , it was 9 days. However, it came with a "PRICE" Take 9 days & admit "GUILT". Something Kevin would NEVER do. He was NOT GUILTY & was found NOT GUILTY in a REAL COURT OF LAW, END OF STORY. People may think that Kevin NOT taking that plea make him "COCKY" I call it BRAVE. He should NOT have to BEND OVER for anybody. He is standing up for his rights!!!!! Others say that he is costing us TAX PAYERS money. That is NOT TRUE. He didn't ask for the "QUAZI TRIAL" THEY DID. Believe me it IS costing him plenty in attorney fees & loss of revenue. Not to mention that its hurting the employees. The waitstaff, hostess, bussers etc. And while we are at it that "QUAZI TRIAL" was something else. First Louie doesn't show for the second half of the trial. Why, we don't know. Hey Louie, if you werren't gonna be there, should you have told Kevin & rescheduled the "QUAZI TRIAL" Lets be fair, everyone should have been there. So here is how the last 45 seconds went: Kevin is found guilty. Now lets move on to the penalty phase: 9 Days (not stiff enough) 30 Days (too stiff) Steve Ivancie even mentions sthat 30 days would be a financial burden for the Nerney's. Thats when Sue Dellinger says: Too Stiif....OK then lets TAKE AWAY HIS LIC. LICENSE all together. With that...Post & Towney agree & they pick up their belongings & leave. Now go figure that out & when you do please let me know if that sounds like the SYSTEM RUN AMOK!!!!!

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justathought 7 years ago

Roxy, maybe thousands of taxpayer dollars was spent and I'm sure he spent thousands defending himself, however he was found not guilty in a court of law. Should the local Liquor License Authority (city council) really have the power to "plea bargain"?

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justathought 7 years ago

Roxy, you may quit putting words in my mouth at any time. I do not know the man and have never been in his establishment. Believing he was screwed by the system does not automatically make me think he's a great guy. If it were you in this position, I'd have the same stance and I don't know you from adam either. If this guy's that bad the women should boycott his bar, it'll go under on it's own; if he's as bad as some of you say he is, he'll end up with a jail term for a sex offense and lose his license anyway and not by a kangaroo court. That said, I hope you never get on the wrong side of the council, you may not like the plea bargain, but hey, they can arbitrarily pick your sentence for reasons known only to them.

By the way, if you truly believe he is a sex offender why would you make statements he should be driving a bus with access to all females? Is that your idea of solving a problem?

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RoxyDad 7 years ago

justathought

I guess you are correct that I put words in your mouth. Consider this a apology and retraction. Same for outsiderlookingin.

I do not have any feelign for Kevin if he is guilty or not and I don't care. If I saw him at a pub I would buy him a beer and discuss this in a friendly manner.

I am just trying to point out to you to look at this in a clear manner without any emotion to Kevin. There are thousnads of American Citizens that go into the "system" and play the game. Many of them lose and when they lose they always think it is unfair. Kevin went into the "system" played the game and lost. If he played it differently he would not have lost his license.

If you do not like the way the game is played then you should put your efforts into changing the game. DO NOT CONTINUALLY COMPLAIN THAT YOU LOST THE GAME. Maybe you could suggest that there should be a more structured penalty phase than there currently is. I personally think that would help both Council and the people up against Council.

This is also why I think Kevin would be a fine bus driver, I have no issues with kevin.

-By the way, I never said kevin was a sex offender as you say I stated and I do not think Counsil said so either. Take your own advise and don't put words in peoples mouths - especially since you preached that to me earlier.

Your last paragraph just shows that you are unable to think clearly about this matter, I am not going to put any more effort in explaining this to you after that.

And to Kevin - I am sorry that that terrible term (Se.....der) was used by justathought in this discussion. It is a disgusting term to be used against someone that does not deserve it and I am disgusted by justathought as well as you should be. !!!!!!!

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justathought 7 years ago

Had he been found guilty of "unlawful sexual contact" in court he would have been labeled a sex offender. The council used this article... [(3). Any person on the licensed premises touching, caressing or fondling the breasts, buttocks, anus or genitals of any other person."] to find him guilty, that doesn't sound like a sex offense to you? Lets call a spade a spade, I didn't label him, after all he was found not guilty in a court of law (where it mattered) the council labeled him. I didn't accuse you of saying he was a sex offender, I said "if you truly believe he is", because I added up your statement [Just because Nerney was found innocent in a court of law does not mean he did not violate the provisions of having a liquor license.] and Towny's statement about article 3 above and that's the only conclusion I could draw. Sorry I put it so bluntly Nerney, I hope you sue the town and win!

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nofear 7 years ago

How many of you sat in the court procedings? How many of you were in the two days of liqour license hearings? Do you really know anything about the procedings or are you just spewing with little direct information? Are you complaining about rights being stepped on at the same time you are retrying this case in a blog? How does that, in any way, add credibility to your statements?

Mr. Nerney had a responsibility as a liquor license holder. He was shown, through hours of due process, to have failed that responsibility. It is not a right to hold a liquor license, it is a privilege.

The young lady who came forward has had the privilege to retell, multiple times, a traumatic, personally invasive event to scores of strangers; been asked intimate details of her life and habits and been attacked in the public media and blogs. What happened to concern for her rights? Mr. Nerney-brave? She and her friends are the ones who had nothing financial or personal to gain and yet, they stood up in the face of ridiculous blog statements and uninformed public comment. THAT is bravery. Thank you for going through it all, ladies. Others who will not suffer your fate appreciate it.

I hope we do not live in a community more concerned about the ability to serve alcohol than the ability to use our public places safely.

Since the pressure of the public media pillary is what allows wrongs to go unreported, try to get your facts before you feel compelled to voice an opinion. Be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

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armchairqb 7 years ago

nofear -- since when is a bar or restaurant a "public place"? ever go into an establishment of any kind and see a sign that reads "No public Restrooms" ? The parks and street and places like that are public places. Restaurants, T shirt shops etc. may be open to the public but are not public places. on a different topic, city council sat on the prosecutors evidence for almost a month and the defense testimony for about 3 mins. I think the fix was in Ask Towney if he can still talk.

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nofear 7 years ago

armchairqb-

Please. Get your facts right.

Mr. Nerney's attorney was unavailable for the month in between hearing dates. Everyone else could attend and was ready. There was cross examination at both license hearings so, there was no "sitting on" the evidence that didn't include both sides' points.

As is usual with uninformed opinions, you have again gotten away from the issue and attacked Mr. Anderson personally. He was a member of a board whose majority vote made a decision. Stick with the issue. A lady was accosted in a public place and the owner lost his privilege to hold a liquor license because he broke the rules of holding said license.

The end.

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KarenPost 7 years ago

Folks - Let me toss out a few facts to build on what Towny wrote and help shed light on this general discussion.

1) After our hearing, I asked Collette (the city's lawyer in this case) why Mr. Nerney was found innocent given the amount of evidence to the contrary. She explained that the prosecution's case was that Mr. Nerney engaged in this behavior for his own sexual gratification. As sexual gratification is hard to prove, he was found not guilty, but he wasn't found Not Guilty of putting his face in her breasts. In addition, Mr. Nerney's lawyer was able to keep out of the trial Nerney's denial of making noises while his face was in the lady's chest, before the girls accused him of it (fairly telling of guilt). For these and a few other reasons I won't go into here, Nerney was found not guilty of achieving sexual gratification from this act.

And you know what, I agree with that jury. I don't believe that Nerney engaged in that behavior for sexual gratification. The facts point to a different motivation, which I also won't go into here, but which point to a total lack of respect for this girl's body. Given his general "above the law" attitude, I could see the possibility of such an act happening again. In fact, since our ruling, I have heard from several sources that local women have had such negative experiences at that bar that they would never return. So it begs the question; should we do nothing and let visitors to our city simply find out for themselves, or should we expect that bars, especially near the slopes be safe for our visitors? I choose the latter and supported revocation.

2) Revocation was not a last minute decision. We discussed the options for revocation and in what cases it would be appropriate in August, when we originally set the date for the hearing, realizing that if we found Mr. Nerney guilty, revocation of his license might be called for.

3) From May until November Mr. Nerney was able to continue serving alcohol while the hearing was postponed on the request of Kevin's lawyer. We could have denied that request and given our findings, revoked his license months earlier. All in all, we bent over backwards to make things less difficult for Mr. Nerney - but in the end, we found him guilty.

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KevinNerney 7 years ago

Dear Miss Post , Talk about getting the facts straight!!! Stop Spewing hearsay and propaganda. You've heard from several sources that local women had negative experiences??? Have the Police heard from these women NO. IS THERE ANY DOCUMENTATION ANYWHERE???? NO How about the thousands of women how have come up to me at the end of a busy night and Thanked me for having a great time and can't wait to come back. As I said in court and also at the quasi -judical hearing I have served upwards of 50,000 people in 25 months of business with only this one unfounded complaint. Had there been others as you wrongly profess surely it would have been brought to light. MY attitude is not above the law,however I will not lay down and cower just because you say I should. I was wronged in this case and you know it. IF you are as concerned as you claim to be ALCOHOL has nothing to do with your concerns regarding the safety of visitors to the city because MY RESTAURANT IS STILL OPEN!!!!!!!! you are suppose to have a degree in Psychology? try using some logic The meeting was put off by Council because some had to go to work , then the next day wasn't good for somebody else. Then you had to worry about being able to get the room . Then Miss Dellinger said we have to get this done before we leave office. Then you reconvine with 2 members missing. The vote could easily gone 4 to 3 in my favor instead of 3 to 2 in yours. Getting back to my original opening statement stop spewing misinformation and spin or I just might have to retain counsil for libel and slander.

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below_me 7 years ago

Kevin, Surely your "counsel" is telling you to keep your mouth shut. If he isn't he should be. In any case, this is starting to get good.

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armchairqb 7 years ago

Kevin: Stop writing & start listening. Towney & Post we've heard from you. NOW......Sue Dillenger Come Out Come Out wherever you are...........

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armchairqb 7 years ago

hey roxydad you say Kevin went into the system and lost. Many people on this blog say Kevin won (in court ) and then the powers that be changed the system because they were unhappy with the outcome, brought Kevin back into a different system ,different rules then fixed it so not all could attend and that's when he lost. Hence, we have what we have. Sour grapes from the outgoing council.

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Susan_Dellinger 7 years ago

armchairqb-

Could you take time to learn to spell my name correctly? And, who am I speaking with?

Susan

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RoxyDad 7 years ago

armchairqb

Hello, I did say Kevin went into the system and lost. He did. Having him in front of Council is part of the same system. It did not end after the court session. In fact, Kevin is probably STILL in the system as he will continue with a lawsuit or something similar and possibly win. If he does win, you wouldn't think I would say that the system was changed so he could win would you? The whole thing is the system and the better player wins.

By the way...Karen Post. When you say "I have heard from several sources that local women have had such negative experiences at that bar that they would never return." you are setting yourself up to be a poor decision maker. You can not use heresay to base your decisions. Your information needs to come directly from the person that had the experience and NO OTHERS.

I try to be clear and stick up for the process that occured for this whole event, but if you base your decisions on what a friend of a friend says it is better that you are not in a position to make a binding decison.

I think others in the legal profession can better explain how this friend of a friend information is not acceptable.

By the way, lets hear more from Kevin himself.

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agentofchange 7 years ago

Kevin, don't get suckered in. Stay away from this thread. They just want you to make a mistake.

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