A few years back, I was confronted by a bureaucrat at City Hall regarding the recently-passed Collinsville Business License Ordinance. This bureaucrat, Dawn Cordle, instructed me to fill out a business license application because my having a number of computers and a fax machine made me a “business”. I proceeded to challenge her ignorance and demand to see the ordinance. My request was denied without my first submitting a Freedom of Information Act request. She refused to show me the “law” which I am supposed to obey. Not a smart thing to do.
I subsequently visited the then-Mayor, Stan Schaeffer, as well as contacting corporate counsel, Steve Giacoletto about this ordinance. I recorded the conversation with Schaeffer wherein he admitted to not knowing the legal particulars of the ordinance, yet he voted for it and signed it into “law”. Giacoletto confirmed during our phone conversation that the ordinance, even though passed into law by the council, is not enforceable upon me or any other “non-legal entity”, meaning people who are not representing a corporate entity.
Subsequent to those conversations, I appeared at a City Council meeting after over 2 years having passed since I refused to procure a business license. During that meeting, I demanded an interpretation on the applicability of the ordinance and if I were so obligated, then the City should arrest, prosecute, and fine me to the tune of over $233,000. A recording of the meeting is here:
The Letter to the Collinsville Herald Where I Discuss the Meeting of Feb. 27, 2006
You can find the Collinsville Ordinances here.
I wrote a letter to the Editor of the Collinsville Herald regarding the meeting encouraging people to watch the recorded version. My letter was as follows:
It began in March, 2004 with a letter from the City of Collinsville insinuating that I was required to have a business license to work out of my home. After exhaustive research, a private meeting with Mayor Schaeffer, a candid phone conversation with Corporate Counsel, Steve Giacoletto, I determined and declared that the City did not have the authority to pass and enforce such an ordinance, specifically as it applies to people working out of their homes. To-date, I have not procured said license.
Economic Development Director, Paul Mann reminded people to renew their business licenses or to procure a license if they are conducting “business” within the City. The article did not mention who was lawfully required to obtain a license. I know of people who work out of their homes who have applied for a business license, whereas I have not. The difference is, I have read the ordinance, and the state statutes, and have determined that it did not apply to me.
I attempted to clarify the issue. I was allowed a private audience with Mayor Schaeffer. Mayor Schaeffer assured me that he would not hold me accountable to the license ordinance, as I was not considered a “business”, despite what the City previously stated. I posed several legal questions to the Mayor, where he then referred me to Corporate Council, Steve Giacoletto, whom I called. Mr. Giocoletto and I discussed this issue in detail. During that conversation, he told me that the City would not prosecute me for noncompliance with the ordinance, as he also agreed that what I did while working out of my home was not a “business activity”.
Mr. Giacoletto and Mayor Schaeffer were very forthcoming with their information. I took exception to the ordinance; they met or spoke with me, and affirmed that I was not subject to the ordinance. The question is what makes me different from the rest of the workers-from-home? This can be answered by tuning in to Channel 10 tonight at 8:30pm or Thursday morning 12:30 pm and watching the City Council meeting from last Monday, where I again asked the City for clarification on the application of this ordinance. Surprisingly enough, both Mr. Giacoletto and Mayor Schaeffer both affirmed, again, how this ordinance applies to workers-from-home.
What is curious is that the ordinance does not mention anything about home-based businesses. Why then, am I excluded from those having to comply? If it is not because I work from home, then is it the nature of my business? This doesn’t appear to be the case either. The ordinance presumes that anyone who is not already licensed by the State for their occupation is conscripted by the City to abide by their law. There is something more fundamental and profound here as to why I am not considered a business. If it is not the nature of my business or the fact that I work from home, could it be that the law in general is inapplicable? This is a question you all need to consider and pursue. I would suggest contacting your Councilperson and asking them about any duty to comply in light of the statements made at the Council meeting.
When you view the City Council meeting on Channel 10, you will see and hear both the Mayor and Mr. Giocoletto affirm that I am exempt. Although very telling, the statement is somewhat qualified in that it falls just short of total disclosure by not addressing the issue at-large. If I am exempt, why aren’t the rest of you?
Mark McCoy, Collinsville
On the City’s website, there is misleading information about who needs a business license, particularly, those who run a business from their “residence”. It states in-part, “Home Occupations (businesses that are run from your primary residence) are subject to additional restrictions and requirements.” I have to ask, exactly who decides if what you do out of your home is a “business”? If you ask the City Clerk, as I did, you will find they are none the more versed in interpreting legalese than anyone, and probably less-so because their minds are narrower than the space between a fat lady’s thighs. As I was told, because I own computers and a fax machine I was a “business”. You will NEVER have a City bureaucrat turn away your $25 application fee because you mistakenly claimed to be a business. Whether you believe it or not, you have a right to work for a living and engage in activities which pose no threat to the community or individuals, even if done in your home. It is insane to think you need permission from anyone to provide for your own needs or pleasure.
My experience with City Hall bureaucrats and a misapplied business license ordinance
March 24, 2004
City of Collinsville
123 South Center Street
Collinsville, IL 62234
Re: Application for City Business License
Today I received an Application for a City Business License from the City of Collinsville. I am addressing this specifically to you because I understand that these licenses are under your purview. The application I received was not accompanied by any letter, notice, corresponding ordinance as to its applicability, or anything else for that matter, and absent any official city letterhead or duly authorized signature from a corporate authority representative. Therefore, I am enclosing said application and returning it to you so it not be wasted at a cost to the taxpayers.
I am dismayed as to why the city would capriciously send an unsolicited application to my address. Is it common practice of the city to send business applications to all residents? You also erred in addressing the envelope to “Mark McCoy (Internet Web Design)”. I do not, nor have I ever, gone by the designation of “Internet Web Design”, nor do I have a business incorporated under the name “Internet Web Design”, nor identify myself as doing business as “Internet Web Design”. The addressing of the letter, if to be viewed in the light of an official communiqué from the municipalities corporate authorities, lacks specificity as to whom the intended recipient of the letter is. I therefore, as a matter of courtesy, am responding for the non-entity of “Mark McCoy (Internet Web Design) since I am the closest representation of that entity at this address.
To my recollection, I did visit your office on March 23, 2004 and inquire as to the applicability of the city’s business license in certain circumstances. I also asked to be provided with a copy of the ordinance which empowers the city with the ability to not only license businesses, but to also compel them to register with the city. I was also refused access to, for viewing, the Municipal Code and City Charter, both of which, in conjunction with lawfully delegated powers from the state legislature, lais the foundation for all powers wielded by the municipality. I have yet to find any statute or legislation which supports the city’s presumption to license or register all businesses. Concordantly, your office refused to provide, either for viewing or copying, the ordinance at issue thus necessitating the submission of a Freedom of Information Act request to view that ordinance.
Absent any prima facie evidence of the existence of such an ordinance pursuant to 65 ILCS 5/1-2-5 and 65 ILCS 5/1-2-6, which was not produced upon my request, I can not be compelled to comply with your interpretation of the ordinance’s applicability in my circumstance. I can only be compelled to comply with lawful ordinances that I myself have read. No offense but, I prefer not to subject myself to the jurisdiction of the city predicated upon heresy. As in the application of Dillon’s Rule, a canon of strict construction for municipalities when attempting to validate ordinances, the lesson is that any reasonable doubt as to the power or authority of a municipality is to be resolved against it. Your office failed to provide me with the requested statutory authority for this ordinance on which I base my reasonable doubt as to its lawfulness.
During our chat you proceeded to ask me some probing questions of such a nature so as to lend perception to the construct of a business enterprise. Merely owning computers, fax machines or other business-like paraphernalia does not constitute a business, the legal definition which is still in dispute absent production of the applicable ordinance and supporting state statutes. If your erroneous proffer of a business license is predicated upon the possession of certain personal property then you may want to submit a number of license applications so as to provide for my mechanic’s business which is evidenced by the possession of various wrenches and tools; my cleaning business which is evidenced by mops, brooms and rags; and my bakery which is evidenced by my possession of a stove and various ingredients with which to make delectable pastries.
I will respectfully ask you to save the enclosed license for someone to whom it lawfully applies or who unwittingly wishes to controvert their right to make a living. In the mean-time I will refrain from further comment or discussion on the matter until I have had time to review the ordinance in question in further detail.
Thank you for your time.
Mayor Stan Schaeffer via post and email
Councilman Fred Dalton via post
Councilman Rick Rehg via post and email
Councilwoman Joy Springer via post
Councilman Jim Pulley via post and email
City Manager Henry Sinda via post and email
Follow-up Article to Collinsville Herald
Blast from the Past: Herald Op-Ed where they promote the ordinance back in 2006 and Nancy Moss and John Miller are quoted as being against it.