Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Picking and Choosing which rules apply at Farmers Market

by Ken Jakes

I attended a special called meeting of the Nashville Farmers Market for vendors and merchants last Thursday April 11th. When it came to the point in the agenda for comments from merchants, one of the merchants was very upset and told Nancy Wittemore, the Acting Director of the Market, that the Market was unfair in their enforcement of the rules and regulations of the market.

After the merchants comments, I spoke and I told the director and staff that I could relate to what was just told them by the previous speaker. At times, there is no enforcement of the rules and yet at other times there is strict enforcement, I said. I reminded the Director that I had just emailed her the night before about how the market was violating Section G(2) of the Rules and Regulation which prohibits the sell of alcoholic beverages at the market. Below is the section of the Rules and Regulation that address this issue:

Rules and Regulations Governing the operation of Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County Farmers Market,  Approved by Farmers Market Commission as amended on February 23, 2012.

Section G (2) Prohibited Items or Acts. No Alcoholic beverages or any controlled substance in any form shall be consumed, kept, bought, or sold in any kind of containers at any stall, or location on the Farmers Market Premises.
I have been informed that this rule is fully understood by the Farmers Market Board and Director, since the Rules of Operation were amended and approved by the Board and filed with the Metro Clerk. The Board fully intended for that rule to be policy and for their rules to be obeyed.  It is furthermore understood that the choice of language of the board was that Alcoholic beverages are "PROHIBITED."  It is to mean just that.

It is also understood in the Rules under section "(1) AUTHORITY," the Board is to administer practices with fairness. On a recent visit to the farmers market with my wife, we noticed wine being sold.  People were setting around everywhere at tables drinking wine by the glass. Furthermore, I have obtained numerous public records documenting that wine is being sold by the farmers market on the nights of the Night Time Market.

I don't care about the wine; heck, I wouldn't mind having a good glass myself. It is about picking and choosing when the Rules and Regulations apply.

I have sent numerous emails informing Mayor Karl Dean, Metro Legal, all Board Members of the Farmers Market, and the Acting Director Nancy Whittemore of the specific rule they are violating and that they willfully and intentionally continue to violate.  I went to the Farmers Market today and saw that vendors  were not only selling wine but beer as well. I called the Metro Police Department and Officer C.Connelly responded. I showed the regulations to him and he said it was not a criminal matter but a civil matter. I told him that already knew that. He told me he couldn't do anything about it. I informed him he could do just what I called him to do and that was to accept from me a citizen's complaint.

The complaint is what I wanted. I wanted it documented by the Police Department that the Farmers Market was still selling wine and beer even after they have been informed many times of the violation of the Farmers Market Board Rules and Regulations. I told him not to worry about what he will do, I told him to document for me and I will proceed to file the complaint. He filed a case complaint number 13-345544.

Now, I have it documented by the police that Farmers Market continues to violate this rule. The Farmers Market regulations and their actions of ignoring this rule are as clear as it gets. Farmers Market Board Member Joycelyn Stephenson is an attorney. She has been well informed, and it is HER rule as a Board member as well as all the other Board members that they are violating.

It is my opinion that this may be an issue to take up with the State of Tennessee Supreme Court Board of Professional Responsibility for ethical violations. If the Nashville Farmers Market wants to sell wine and beer, then have them change their rules and regulations to permit it, but don't pass regulations prohibiting wine and beer and then allow it to go on blatantly in front of everyone.

One would think that with Mayor Karl Dean being the former Director of Metro Legal that he would want all his appointments to boards and commissions to obey, and enforce equally and fairly all of their rules and regulations. Rules of Operation are supposed to apply to all.

I have filed a complaint and requesting as a taxpayer of Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County, that the Market stop the violation of alcohol being sold immediately.  If the Market wants to sell alcohol, then the Board should give proper public notice, hear from the public, discuss the matter, and approve changes to the Rules of Operation, and file those changes with the Metro Clerk.

Picking and choosing which rules to enforce is, unfortunately, business as usual for the Farmers Market. This is another management issue for the City needs to look at and resolve for the people.

Ken Jakes is a frequent critic of Metro Government and a citizen activist discovering and exposing government corruption and waste.

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