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Councilman: Ordinance can be enforced

Official disputes attorneys’ ruling on vendor law

The sponsor of an ordinance recently passed by the Ironton City Council to regulate vendors is taking issue with a recent legal opinion stating that the city can’t enforce it.

Councilman Mike Lutz argued Wednesday that the city can in fact enforce the ordinance, despite the legal opinion saying otherwise.

Lutz wrote the ordinance with the help of city solicitors Mack Anderson and Bob Anderson, he said. The Andersons recently gave the mayor a legal opinion that states the ordinance cannot be enforced because it does not specify a penalty for violators.

Lutz pointed out that the city’s codified ordinances already has a general penalty section that applies to ordinances that otherwise do not specify a penalty.

A section of the city’s codified ordinances labeled 202.99 General Penalty states: “Whenever, in the Codified Ordinances or in any ordinance of the municipality, any act is prohibited or is made or declared to be unlawful or an offense or a misdemeanor, or whenever the doing of any act is required or the failure to do any act is declared to be unlawful, where no specific penalty is otherwise provided, whoever violates any such provision shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500.00), a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both. A separate offense shall be deemed committed each day during or on which a violation continues or occurs.”

The city’s ordinances can be found on the city’s website, www.ironton-ohio.com.

Lutz said, although he is not an attorney, it would seem that the section specifies a penalty for the ordinance.

“I don’t understand what the conflict is when it appears to spell it out,” Lutz said.

On Tuesday, Councilman Bob Cleary also argued that the city could enforce the ordinance. He said that, according to the city charter, the mayor is required to enforce all ordinances that council passes.

The Ironton City Council passed the ordinance late last month at the request of grassroots civic organization the Friends of Ironton. The group asked the council to enact a rule to protect them from vendors who set up during their events like Rally on the River, without paying a vendors’ fee. They argued that all the money the Friends make is put back into the city through projects like the new Splash Park and the restoration of the historic Ro-Na Theater.

The ordinance states that during any special event authorized by the mayor, the authorized hosting organization for the event will set the fees for vendors. The vendor is to pay the fee to the hosting organization, according to the ordinance.

Blankenship presented the Andersons’ legal opinion to council members at a special meeting Tuesday evening.

Reached Wednesday, Blankenship said Lutz had sent him an email regarding the General Penalty ordinance. The mayor said because he is not an attorney and cannot offer legal advice, he sent the email on to the Andersons, but has not heard back from them.

“My position still stands at this point until the attorneys tell me something different,” Blankenship said.

A representative from the Friends of Ironton, Dave Smith, said Wednesday that the group is taking a “dim view” of the city’s not enforcing the ordinance. The group is thinking over whether or not to have Rally on the River in Ironton next year, he said.

Calls to the Andersons’ law firm were not returned at press time.