Sun, Nov. 17

Legal threat should come as no surprise to Jerome

You could see this one coming from a mile away.

As was predicted on this page Nov. 4, the first step leading to a lawsuit has been filed with Jerome Town Hall.

Cottonwood attorney Scott A. Miskiel filed a notice of claim against the Town of Jerome on behalf of Arizona Safari Jeep Tours Dec. 15.

In October, his client applied for a business license in Jerome. Jerome's own town ordinance states that upon submittal of a business license application, it "shall become the duty of the town clerk to prepare and issue a license."

Instead of this being a simple administrative task, what transpired is something that you never see occur in Jerome or any other Arizona municipality. At the urging of Mayor Jane Moore, the Arizona Safari Jeep Tours business license application was placed on a town council meeting agenda and was subject to a public hearing.

Arizona Safari Jeep Tours owner Val Stewart said he interpreted the gathering to be a friendly meet-and-greet. He would give an overview of his business, answer a few questions, shake some hands and be welcomed to the friendly town of Jerome.

Talk about your classic set-up. Stewart spent the evening being the town's verbal punching bag. He was told, among other things, "We don't want you here. We don't want to see you. We don't want to hear you."

What Stewart was subjected to is simply not right, not to mention a violation of Jerome's own town ordinances. He was singled out. Business license applications are administrative matters in Jerome. In his case, it became fodder for the town council with an intimidation factor from the community. The set of rules that apply to everyone else was tossed out the window.

Now, the town faces a potential legal challenge over its refusal to allow Stewart a business license. Should this dispute ever get before a judge, Jerome may give Stewart a lot more than a business license. There could be court costs, attorney's fees and lost profits for each and every day Stewart has not been allowed to conduct business in the town.

The irony of it all is that out-of-town tour companies bring tourists to Jerome every day. Those businesses do not pay one-cent of sales tax to the town. Stewart is trying to do everything by the book. He just as easily could set up shop in Cottonwood or Clarkdale and let those municipalities collect the sales tax. He could still run his tours through Jerome and no one could do a thing about it.

That would be just what Jerome deserves. Stewart is not about to be bullied, however. He knows his business is a perfect fit for Jerome. The tourists will love it. It will generate some healthy income for town hall. It will be one more feather in the town's tourist-magnet cap.

You'd think the folks on the Jerome Town Council could figure that out.

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