Kenosha Licenses and Permits Committee: Two ‘false’ applications, two different treatments, one interested alderperson

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KENOSHA ⸺ With one question and a brief exchange, a bartender’s license application sure to fail due to a criminal record received a second chance via deferral from the city Licenses and Permits Committee.

licences and permits audio (March 29, 2021)

Audio of Agenda Items 1 and 2 (new bartender’s applications) during the Kenosha Licenses and Permits Committee meeting March 29, 2021. Audio owned by Daniel Thompson/The Uptown Observer.

On Monday night, the city committee considered the new bartender’s license application of Brian Green. And to say approving Green’s application would be difficult on paper would be an understatement. 

Green’s application came with 340 demerit points ⸺ 240 above the 100 the committee normally uses as a threshold to deny or send a recommendation to deny to the City Council.

A record of drug offenses and driving violations were written down, and the City Attorney recommended denying it because of that record ⏤ and the fact that Green had not listed a 2019 alcohol offense on his application. 

His application then at 320 demerit points, that omission tacked on another 20 points. 

Just before discussing Green’s application, the committee also considered an application with 75 demerit points. However, that applicant had neglected to list three prior convictions. They did not attend the meeting. They did not send any comments in writing.

The committee approved that application without discussion or any opposition. 

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Criminal record a topic for one, not another application

Yet, Green’s record was cited in some committee members’ statements indicating they would vote to deny.

But then, Dist. 10 Ald. Anthony Kennedy asked a question.

“So, looking at the record, I see some things from 1998; I see some things from 2004,” Kennedy said. 

“What has your life been like since 2004?”

The focus on Green’s record followed the application of Tyler Shepherd. 

Shepherd, whose application the committee unanimously approved, neglected to report:

  • A 2016 operating without a driver’s license conviction;
  • A 2018 default judgement on possession of marijuana;
  • And a default judgement of intentionally refuse to furnish identifying information from 2018.

Shepherd did list a 2016 conviction for public indecency on his application.

The city assessed him 75 demerit points for his prior convictions. And the City Attorney sent Shepherd’s application to the committee with a recommendation to grant.  

There was no mention of the words “false application” on Shepherd’s application or in the committee’s agenda item for not reporting three convictions ⸺ even though not listing one conviction had caused it to appear with Green’s.

13 years of lawful conduct between last conviction and latest violation

Committee Chairperson Dist. 13 Ald. Curt Wilson set the tone for the discussion of Green’s application right off the bat. 

“Before us, is a recommendation to deny based on a material police record and a false application. Looking at the materials in front of us, I note that you have in excess of 300 demerit points, and by city ordinance, any applicant meeting 100 demerit points could be denied a license,” Wilson said.

“So you far exceed that,” he added. “And I’m sure there are some questions from the committee.”

Ruffalo: ‘Beyond my comfort zone’

Though he expressed that he would vote to deny Green’s application, there was an air of sympathy in Dist. 16 Ald. Dominic Ruffalo’s voice even though his words were not what the applicant wanted to hear.

“Like Chairman Wilson said, at 100 points, we could deny,” Ruffalo said. “And you’re at 340 points. Do you have that information in front of you? Now you got a liquor law violation, bail jumping, delivery of cocaine, maintain drug trafficking ⏤ it’s a felony. So with them added up is 340 points.”

Again, while Ruffalo and other committee members discussed Green’s record in considering his application, no other conviction records were discussed during Monday’s meeting.

“Now, I wish I had better news for you,” Ruffalo said. “But I’m going to be a ‘no’ on granting you a bartender’s license. You’re way past my comfort zone.”

Griffin asks if applicant knew

By the time Dist. 7 Ald. Shayna Griffin asked Green if he had been aware that he had not reported the 2019 liquor law violation on his application, his tone in responding showed that he had already given up on the application being approved. 

“No, because I’m not the license holder,” Green replied. “And then all my felonies and stuff, that’s older. You’re talking about 20-plus years for a lot of this stuff. I was just giving this a shot, but I understand where you guys might be coming from.

“And there’s no problem at all.”

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Kennedy steps in

After listening to his colleagues, Kennedy addressed Green, asking a series of questions no one else had.

“So, looking at the record, I see some things from 1998; I see some things from 2004,” Kennedy said. “What has your life been like since 2004?”

“Pretty much I violated probation and then went to prison, just being honest,” Green responded. “Left (prison) in 2008. I haven’t been back. Other than that, it’s just an up and down situation. Just trying to do the right thing and trying to get a job, and you know, just move on from the past.”

“The reason I went to prison in 2008 was the probation violation,” Green added. “Between that time, just working. Just trying to keep a clean house.”

When Kennedy asked if Green had had any more problems with the law since 2008, he simply responded, “No sir.” 

A search of Green’s name and address in online court records backs up his statement. 

A 2-week deferral on application

After the exchange, Kennedy asked Green if he would be able to submit in writing what he told the committee Monday night if the committee deferred a decision for two weeks.

“Because right now, we have the record,” he explained. “We have what is in front of us. But that only tells us one part of the story. Are you able to tell a better life about your life supported by people who are willing to vouch for you. Are there people in the community who are willing to vouch for Mr. Green and say, ‘Mr. Green’s life has changed based on’ whatever criteria they can attest to?”

“Definitely, sir, definitely,” Green responded. “I definitely can do that. And I think the result is going to be positive, you know, just being honest. I haven’t really been doing anything.”

Still a high bar for application to clear

While Green expressed gratitude, Kennedy made it clear that Green still has “a high bar to clear” with 340 demerit points stacked against his application.

“I don’t want to give you any false hope,” Kennedy said. 

“But I do want to give you an opportunity to tell us a different story than what we see here with the record.”

Kennedy’s motion to defer for two weeks passed 4-1, with Ruffalo solely voting against.


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