At Thursday’s council work session, Councilwoman Ruth Bruner said that after reading about it she did not see the benefit of changing the liquor license policy.
"All we’re doing is taking ... all the information we already get, the documentation, and sending it to Homeland Security, which bogs it down for who knows how long," Bruner said. "When we come back we don’t really have anything."
Councilwoman Myrtle Figueras said she knew that Debbie Jones, senior deputy marshal for the city of Gainesville, is already following a thorough procedure before issuing alcoholic beverage licenses.
Jones has said that, when taking applications for liquor licenses from noncitizens, the office obtains passports, naturalization papers or resident alien cards to check the applicants’ legal status. Jones said the resident alien cards have an expiration date and a barcode with a small metallic strip that helps her verify its authenticity.
Councilman Danny Dunagan said he did not realize that the current licensing procedure was as in-depth as it is.
The policy that City Attorney James E. "Bubba" Palmour advised for the city would have required noncitizen applicants to provide similar documents and sign an affidavit saying they were legal residents of the United States. The city would verify the affidavit through the Department of Homeland Security. If it turns out the applicant has lied about his or her legal status, then the applicant could face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to five years in prison.
Figueras, Bruner and Dunagan all said that they did not feel the proposed changes would be anymore effective at keeping undocumented immigrants from obtaining alcoholic beverage licenses than the current system.
"It’s just something else for our staff to have to go through," Dunagan said. "It’s unnecessary."
"If it was going to make a difference than what we already do then I could see it," Figueras said. "If it’s not going to make that much of a difference I don’t see spending anymore time on it."
Councilman George Wangemann asked that Palmour give a copy of the proposed changes to the marshal’s office, and see if the marshals had any recommendations. Palmour said he had already met with the marshal’s office, and there was no need to make the changes.
"By and large (city marshals) cover the same thing my memo covered with the exception of running it through Homeland Security," Palmour said.
Bruner noted the additional costs the city would incur if it verified every applicant through Homeland Security.
"At the end of the day, we’re still not going to require ... citizenship so therefore, I don’t really see that it’s going to do anything but cost us more time and money," Bruner said.
Dunagan added to Bruner’s concern, and asked that the council discuss issues like the liquor license policy before it spends money having Palmour research it. Palmour charged the council for 39 hours of work to research the policy, costing about $5,000, Bruner said. Palmour said charging only 39 hours for the research was cutting the council a deal.
"That’s not all the hours we spent," Palmour said. "I just couldn’t charge what we spent."
Dunagan, Figueras and Bruner all said they understood. Bruner told Palmour the amount of time he charged the city was not the point, it was just that the council needed to come to a consensus before asking him to spend his time on the research.
"I think it needs to be a consensus of the whole council to ‘OK’ to spend that kind of money," Dunagan said.