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Forest Park hearing on bars' licenses postponed

 

 

A hearing to determine if two Forest Park clubs, accused of several law violations, should have their business licenses revoked, or suspended, was postponed Thursday as attorneys for both sides argued over whether the hearing officer should have control over evidence.

The city was scheduled to hold a hearing, to look into allegations of state and city law violations involving sex and adult entertainment at the Pink Pony South and Crazy Horse Saloon, which are licensed restaurants in the city. If the clubs are found to have, indeed, committed the violations, they could see their business licenses suspended, or revoked.

Those activities are not allowed to take place in an establishment that is licensed as a restaurant, under city ordinances.

Attorney Michael Martin, a former Forest Park city judge who is presiding over the hearings, said the hearings were postponed so he could hear motions from the attorneys for Jack Galardi, the owner of both clubs, to suppress evidence from the city, and to have Martin recuse himself.

“On Wednesday, a conference call was held with all of the attorneys being present, and at that time, they advised me that there were a number of issues that they needed me to address, prior to the convening of the actual evidentiary hearing,” Martin said. “What I intend to do [Thursday] is hear the arguments on the motions, and make certain determinations concerning them.”

The hearings will be held separately, and consecutively, beginning Nov. 22, at 9 a.m., Martin announced. The hearing for the Crazy Horse Saloon will be held first. The second hearing, for the Pink Pony South, will begin immediately afterward, the hearing officer said.

“Because we have separate licenses for each establishment, I intend to conduct separate hearings on each licensee,” Martin said.

City documents show that Forest Park officials are accusing the clubs of allegedly committing 16 state law and city ordinance violations. Those alleged violations, according to a letter sent to Galardi’s lawyers, from City Attorney Joe Harris, Jr., include: Public indecency; prostitution; keeping a place of prostitution; pimping; pandering; sodomy; solicitation of sodomy; masturbation for hire; gambling; operating an adult entertainment establishment without a license; operating an adult entertainment establishment without a permit; illegal contact between patrons and employees; engaging in “specified sexual activities” in an adult entertainment establishment; sale of alcoholic beverages in an adult entertainment establishment; nudity, or partial nudity in an adult entertainment establishment, and the use of “VIP rooms.”

Crazy Horse Saloon General Manager David Rashmir said the city’s allegations are “contrary to the truth in evidence,” in a written statement sent to the Clayton News Daily after the motions hearing.

“The real truth is that the Crazy Horse Saloon has been the victim of insidious police harassment, with a political agenda to put us out of business,” Rashmir wrote.

Aubrey Villines, Jr., one of the attorneys for the clubs, said he and fellow attorney, Dwight Thomas, sought the motions to have Martin recuse himself, and to suppress evidence because they had qualms about what he termed the Forest Park City Council’s “Kangaroo Ordinance” to establish the hearings.

Villines said Galardi’s legal team has also sought a temporary restraining order in Clayton County Superior Court, to prevent the hearings from taking place, but have not yet received a ruling on their request from Chief Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield.

“We’ve been here for several years, and we have not had any problems with the city until the last few years,” Villines said.

Attorneys for the clubs argue that the establishments cannot get fair hearings because of the way the hearing process was laid out in the city’s hearing ordinance. Martin, the hearing o officer, acknowledged during the hearing, that the ordinance does not give him the judicial authority to establish rules of evidence, or rules of law for the hearings.

“It looks to me ... that my duty is to determine whether the sole evidence provided to me is sufficient to do anything,” he said.

Villines said without Martin having the ability to establish rules of evidence, the city could introduce hearsay evidence, while attorneys for the clubs would not be able to compel law enforcement officers, who went to the clubs, to testify about their actions.

“His [Martin’s] hands are tied,” Villines said. “There is no way we can get a fair hearing, not without any rules of evidence.”

Forest Park City Manager John Parker pointed out that attorneys for both sides would have 30 days after Martin hands down his decision, to appeal the ruling, if they choose to do so. “If the Galardi Enterprises are unhappy about the decision, they can appeal to Superior Court,” Parker said. “If the city is unhappy about his findings, then the city could appeal to Superior Court.”

The city manager added that the city is standing by its hearing ordinance, however. “That’s all we have to go with,” he said. “If it’s in the ordinance, that’s what we go with. If it’s not in the ordinance, then we don’t address it.”

City Attorney Joe Harris, Jr., said Forest Park’s evidence in the case will be based on testimony from multiple city police officers and private investigators that have been sent into the clubs, to check out what activities took place in each facility. “They are going to testify about what they saw, and we expect the evidence will show a pattern of illegal activity,” Harris said.

Harris also said, about the issue of Martin’s lack of authority to establish rules of evidence, that he did not think it would hurt the city’s case against the clubs.

“I think it will actually make it go more smoothly, and not get bogged down in a lot of legal technicalities,” he said. “The Constitution requires basic due process, and that’s all it requires, and we’re giving him more than that, in our opinion ... [The club can appeal] to Superior Court, and Judge Benefield would hear that.”