Attorney: Warren Town Council's actions an embarrassment


To the editor:

Closed for business. That might as well be the new slogan for Warren’s economic development efforts. After spending taxpayer money to attract business to the town, the council then whimsically rejects efforts to locate a business, without even a public airing of the matter or a reasoned rationale for their decision.

Not having attended the April 8th council meeting, I watched the video (which I urge every Warren resident to do). I could not believe my eyes. In what is typically the most routine of matters, the granting of a food license, the council’s action was little short of appalling and entirely detrimental to its supposed efforts of attracting economic development.

<Editor's note: If you click on the video, scroll to 33 minutes, 30 seconds in.>

Since the town requires a food license, applicants regularly go to the licensing board (in this case the council), to ask permission to pay an annual fee for operating a business. Why one has to kiss the ring is long based on ordinances to regulate business, but this application process is not a carte-blanche invitation to bring in all matters that may have occurred in one’s life to bear on the grant of a license to operate a business.

As the Rhode Island Supreme Court pointed out in Primiano v. Town of Warren (another case lost by the town), the granting or denial of a food license should be based on the health, safety and general welfare of the town. That said, if the town were rife with restaurants, then it could be argued that the town didn’t need another. Application denied. If there were a history of serving bad food on the part of the applicant, the town would be within its right to deny based on public safety. The issue of a civil matter, even if put on the record, is not related to the issuance and should not be grounds for denial.

But at this council meeting, the applicants were not even granted a hearing, nor were they given any rationale for the decision, other than “on the advice of the town solicitor” who, incidentally, told me personally that he had never discussed the matter. Someone is being less than honest here. There was no determination based on evidence that there was a health, safety or public welfare concern because there wasn’t even a hearing.

While much hay is being made on the streets about civil lawsuits, even if there had been an opportunity to discuss them openly and publicly, what bearing does that have to the legal standard of health, safety or general welfare? None.

By completely ignoring the legal standard which they are charged to apply, the council instead chose to (unanimously, I might add) use the unsubstantiated rumor standard, which apparently allows for a pre-hearing determination based on what the members paternalistically think is in the best interest of the applicants (all independently ascertained I am assured).

As to granted economic development money and taxes, my investigation has led me to believe that no council person had requested either of these records prior to the meeting and, in at least one case, the records do not presently exist.

In short, this brief exchange did not in any manner demonstrate the applicant’s inability to operate a restaurant, but it surely demonstrated that the council may not know how to operate its own business.

My client is Nosh LLC. I became the attorney after the hearing (or whatever it was).

My clients are not interested in politics but in attempting to open a successful business. They had several options but chose Warren, foolishly believing the talk that it was business-friendly.

Since my clients were treated so poorly by the town, and since they have other places to locate, my advice was simple: Go elsewhere and file suit against the town. If successful, not only will the town have lost a potential revenue source but may end up paying for its stupidity (although it too may be broke and file bankruptcy before the judgment — how ironic!).

While I explored the option of putting the matter back on the agenda in hope of fairness, time constraints and other business commitments made this a poor option for my clients. Besides, who could trust the council to give a full and fair hearing after such a fiasco? Would the applicant, if granted the license, then be a walking target? Why take such a chance in business when there are other options available? Good business practice should prevail in making such a decision.

The bottom line is that the embarrassing performance of the council at the behest of a phantom objector has brought little more than disrepute to the business friendly reputation of the town and exposed an ugly under-belly of omnipotent governance.

Over our years of legal battles, the town solicitor and I have often exchanged Shakespearian quotations to make a point. Here, I choose to be Marcellus in Hamlet, Act I, Scene 4. When did Warren become part of Europe?

Robert J. Healey Jr.


Editor’s note: View the town council meeting at which this matter was discussed here. The discussion on this matter begins at 33:30.



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Honoré de Balzac

What a disgrace by the Warren town council! Mr. Stanley has the GALL to throw Bristol under the bus on the RSD issue then dismiss this request to bring a tax-paying business into town.

Mr. Stanley and the rest of the council should be ASHAMED of their actions and they should submit their resignations immediately.

Complete incompetence.

Monday, April 21, 2014 | Report this
Local Bargain Jerk

I admire Mr. Healey and all he has done for the state. I also agree with what he's saying in his letter, but I have a question: As the seller of the property/business in question, doesn't bringing a lawsuit against the Town of Warrent for denying the licenses necessary to facilitate the conveyance represent a conflict of interest? Someone please tell me what I'm missing because I must be missing something.

Thanks in advance.

Monday, April 21, 2014 | Report this
Honoré de Balzac

local bj-

here's what you're missing:

the council didn't give the applicants a chance to present their request

plain and simple

that's called corruption

Monday, April 21, 2014 | Report this
William Foster

The fact is that The Cheese Plate has changed hands twice since Mr. Bob Healey owned it. So Local Bargain Jerk- you are not missing a thing! Clearly the only missing link is a lack of competency in the town of Warren.

Monday, April 21, 2014 | Report this

Still wondering why Councilwoman Tattrie went on Facebook to post what happened when people in the audience at the meeting had no clue of what was going on. People had to resort to watching the replay days later to follow what actually happened.

Perhaps it should be made clear AT THE MEETING what is happening. The audience was as clueless as the applicant looked on the video.

Whatever is going on here it doesn't look good - the perception is it stinks.

Monday, April 21, 2014 | Report this

There's something wrong with that process. No wonder Warren is the mess it is. Hopefully the taxpayers will treat the council members in the same fashion at the next election.

Monday, April 21, 2014 | Report this

hello I am noticing a theme in Warren and it reminds me of why my family after living in RI for over 200 years moved out. Warren again lets not have this business .......NO CHEESE FOR YOU.......NO BREWERY FOR YOU......NO LL BEAN FOR YOU........NO GUNSMITH FOR YOU............BLOUNT SEAFOOD GONE.....BLOUNT SHIPYARD A SHELL OF IT'S FORMER SELF.........COST OF A MOORING MORE THAN NEWPORT RI . Warren used to be a leader in manufacturing and provided many people with jobs and products. I bet that they would approve Kurt schilling for a video game company oh I am sorry is that too soon. Taxes are going to outpace the rising waters from global warming. Really you do have to ask yourself this question "What does Warren offer?" The truth in short not much to nothing. Time is running short best change your ways or end up like Central Falls

Monday, April 21, 2014 | Report this

I have to agree with most here that the town council was very wrong to immediately deny a request for the license. While it sounds like FAB's previous history of running a business was lackluster, she now has a partner to help. Since that is in fact civil in nature, it sounds like Bob is right, and the town broke the law. I don't think the town should turn anyone down at this point, as taxes continue to skyrocket while the town has little to offer and will get worse after drastic budget reductions for the next fiscal year. Another empty business (Cheese Plate) will now stay empty for how long? Personal vendetta's should not be reflected in Council meetings or determinations. I doubt the town can win this one in court!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 | Report this

To black ball anyone in this fashion is unprofessional. They should have been able to present.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 | Report this

ahh .. a blast from the past. I hear you moved down to West Virginia with all the other tea-party supporting red-necks and others of low-to-no intelligence. Given your title of "Chancellor, Frost Industries" on your face book page it is pretty clear what side of the fence your political views originate. I am surprised you are writing anything in defence of Ms. Goldberg given your "Chancellor" title in West Virginia.

Clearly you sold up and left the town and we don't want you back so please keep your nose out of our business. Once again your semi-literate prose are taking up space where you are not wanted ... go away billy and stay away.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 | Report this
Honoré de Balzac

...and the liberals always tell me that THEY are the open-minded, tolerant ones!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 | Report this
former warrenite

Should they not have had the opportunity to know why their application was denied? If I were a potential business owner I would certainly want to know why my application was denied so I could reapply for licensing. I would imagine the only reason for denial should be some sort of procedural mistake that should be able to be corrected. It strikes me that if it were for another reason not to do with the actual operation of the town, then the denial is beyond the council's purview.

It's pretty sad when politics trumps what may be good for the town and its economy. Keep this up and you can kiss garbage pick up goodbye (businesses pay taxes, folks, when they are allowed to conduct business).

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 | Report this
former warrenite

And as to her "dicey past" in Warren: what concern is that of the town council unless she is in arrears for town taxes? There have been plenty of "dicey" businesses that have operated in Warren. Who decides what is acceptable and what isn't so long as business isn't doing anything illegal? Seems to me that if standards are applied equally, all Warren establishments should be subject to the same level of scrutiny.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 | Report this
former warrenite

Doesn't she need a reason for appeal? That would be impossible without knowing the reason for denial unless it was an appeal for procedural reasons.

As it appears from the video, there is no prescribed procedure. The guy who asked for a license for the bakery on Market Street seemed to engage in some complimentary banter and got almost immediate unanimous approval.

It certainly appears that knowing the players and sucking up doesn't hurt other applicants. While this is probably to be expected in a small town, the approach does nothing to encourage business development in a town that could really use it and is struggling to pay its bills.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | Report this

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