Wednesday, January 14, 2004
A former City Council candidate is suing the city for $49 million, saying his civil rights were violated when the City Council denied him a liquor license on the question of moral character.
Marcus Williams, who ran for the District 2 seat in November, filed a civil suit in federal court Tuesday and served a summons to City Council members and staff Wednesday.
In his complaint, Williams said the City Council "did use their positions to trap the plaintiff on a point of record and used a private executive session to slander and defame the plaintiff's good name and character, deny him a liquor license, his chosen business and his ability to earn reward for his work and investment."
Williams wants the city to pay $15 million for violating his civil rights, another $15 million for violating due process and $19 million for conspiracy in violating his civil rights.
"The problem they have, they believe they can do this when the Constitution of the United States clearly states they have no right to do this. It is unconstitutional," Williams said.
City Attorney Tony Lettunich called the monetary amount requested in the civil suit "nonsense."
"This complaint is frivolous and groundless, and I can only imagine seeking all of our attorneys' fees and costs to deal with this ridiculous lawsuit," Lettunich said.
The city has 20 days to respond to Williams' complaint.
The city will review the case with lawyers from its insurance company and decide whether it would be more appropriate to seek a motion to dismiss the case or a summary judgment, Lettunich said.
Williams also said he wants to appeal the council's Dec. 16 decision to deny a liquor license for his proposed business, Jazbote. Without a liquor license, Williams said, he cannot open a jazz bar at 1875 Ski Time Square. William bought the property and made renovations to open the bar.
"For the City Council and city staff to turn down a jazz bar is bad karma, and I assure you it will bring bad karma to everyone," Williams said.
Acting as the city's liquor licensing authority, the council voted 6-0 to deny Williams' liquor license application. City Clerk Julie Jordan told the council Williams had not disclosed on the application a 2003 deferred judgment for driving while ability impaired and a 1996 conviction for the same charge.
The council denied the application, stating Williams did not exhibit good moral character because of a lack of truth in his liquor application.
To approve a liquor license, the council has to find by law that there is no evidence indicating the applicant is not of good moral character.
The council met in executive session to discuss Williams' moral character and his failure to include his previous offenses.
An "individual history" section of the application asks "have you ever been convicted of a crime or received a suspended sentence, deferred sentence or forfeited bail for any offense in criminal or military court or do you have any charges pending?"
In that section, Williams had first marked yes and wrote, "nothing significant I can remember." He later crossed the wording out and marked no, Jordan told the council.
Williams said he asked a city staff member about the question.
"She said if it was nothing serious I should cross out yes and put no," Williams said Wednesday.
For all liquor license applicants who have a stake in the business of 10 percent or more, the city runs a background check through the Federal Bureau of Investigations and Colorado Bureau of Investigations.
Williams' background check showed that, at the time he had marked no on his history rec-
ord -- July 14 -- he recently had entered a deferred judgment on a one-year DWAI sentence.
The check also showed that in 1996, Williams was convicted of DWAI in Gunnison County.
When city staff informed Williams of the inaccuracy, he submitted a letter asking to change his response to that question.