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Dougherty County Commission rejects alcohol license application

An agent for the store owner sold beer to an underage person in 2013

Dougherty County Commissioner Clinton Johnson, shown in this file photo, made the motion Monday against approving an alcohol sales application for a store because the owner’s employee-agent sold alcohol to an underage person last year. The application failed 6-0. (Albany Herald file photo)

Dougherty County Commissioner Clinton Johnson, shown in this file photo, made the motion Monday against approving an alcohol sales application for a store because the owner’s employee-agent sold alcohol to an underage person last year. The application failed 6-0. (Albany Herald file photo)

ALBANY — The Dougherty County Commission voted Monday at a special called meeting to not allow the owner of a Newton Road convenience store to obtain an alcohol license in the name of a store employee who had been arrested in 2013 for selling alcohol to an underage patron.

The commission voted 6-0 to deny Sunitaben Patel’s request to obtain the alcohol license in the name of store employee Mary Savage, who manages another of Patel’s convenience stores on Sylvester Road. Savage had a misdemeanor conviction and court disposition in 2013 for furnishing alcohol to an underage person, officials said. A required check by Dougherty County Police found that the infraction was the only one against Savage over the past 10 years.

The police check of Savage’s criminal history also showed that she had numerous counts of deposit fraud from 1983 to 1992 and had been charged with probation violation in 1994. In 1995, she was charged with forgery and received 10 years on probation. Since those events occurred before the 10-year review period, they could not be considered by the commission in the approval or rejection of the application.

“I don’t want to knowingly put an alcohol license in the hands of a person who was found guilty of selling alcohol to a minor,” District 3 Commissioner Clinton Johnson said during discussion of the matter.

Johnson made the motion to deny the license at the special called meeting.

“I’m not going to readily help anyone sell alcohol to a minor,” Johnson said after Monday’s meeting. “I’m not making this a race issue, but (Savage) was arrested for selling to a minor at a convenience store in a heavily black neighborhood. And they want to list her as (alcohol license holder) of another store in another part of the county.

“Frankly, I’m insulted by the whole thing.”

Patel’s application for an alcohol license had originally been accepted, but a closer check by County Clerk Jawahn Ware showed that the applicant had a Lee County address. Dougherty County’s ordinance does not allow alcohol licenses to be held by citizens who reside outside the county.

The county does, however, allow an employee of an applicant to hold the license in the owner’s stead, and that was the impetus for Savage seeking the license in her name. Dougherty County police, who are required to consider the applicant’s criminal history only for the past 10 years when checking a license application, recommended that the commission move forward with the process.

“We checked (Savage’s) record since her arrest in 2013, and there have been no problems since then,” DCP Chief Jackie Battle told the commission.

Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard asked if the commission would be allowed to put a special stipulation on its consideration of the license application, notifying the owner that “if anything happened again, their business license would be in jeopardy.” County Attorney Spencer Lee said that such a stipulation should not be added to any agreement by the county.

“You’d have to make that ruling if there was a future infraction,” Lee said.

“This is not easy, it’s a tough one,” Sinyard said. “We want to be pro-business, but we have an obligation to our citizens.”

At the conclusion of the work session, Sinyard called a special meeting to consider the matter, and it was voted down unanimously by the commission.