Confusion reigns over new law proposed for vendors
A proposed law governing Fredonia’s vendors was tabled by the Board of Trustees amid heavy criticism and legal questions.
The law would amend part of the code that concerns vendors. Festivals Fredonia and the Fredonia Farmers Market are strongly opposed to it, stating it will add more fees and bureaucratic hassle.
Discussion began when Trustee David Bird sought to add exemptions for 501(c)3 charities and farmers selling produce grown in Chautauqua County.
Trustee James Lynden said any organization that seeks to make a profit shouldn’t be charged an extra fee if they are part of the Farmers Market, but don’t do business elsewhere.
Trustee Nicole Siracuse said Festivals Fredonia should also be exempt, and Lynden agreed. She said it seemed like 501(c)3s would be exempt — but not if they do food trucks.
“It feels like it might be not be all the way discrimination, but it feels like we are going back to the thing we are trying to eliminate, which was charging some, not all,” Siracuse said.
Trustee Jon Espersen had another concern: “I don’t think the trustees should have the authority to exempt one vendor from the other based on whatever our personal opinion is of that vendor. According to the exemption paragraph, it’s just left up in the open… I think that leaves us open for a lawsuit.”
He added that Farmers Market vendors already pay weekly to use the market, and also pay fees to Festivals Fredonia to be at the Farm Festival.
Bird’s biggest concern in the matter seemed to be that some food vendors can currently get away with not getting inspected. Lynden and Trustee Michelle Twichell disputed the lack of inspections.
The discussion wound down until village attorney Melanie Beardsley arrived, as officials had legal questions about the proposed changes.
Beardsley counseled an executive session “because I don’t want to have to board discuss legal options. … Discriminate doesn’t necessarily mean unlawful discrimination. I’m happy to save that and have a conversation with the entire board in executive session to talk about that. I do think the board should have that conversation and make sure that you don’t have any legal questions for me.”
Bird wondered if that conversation should be in open session. Beardsley replied that proposed revisions should be deliberated in public, “but if you’re asking me legal questions about whether or not this violates the law, that’s legal advice I’m giving the board, and that would be appropriate for an executive session.”
Siracuse then proposed to table the law “because we have so many questions and revisions.” The other trustees agreed.
The law would have to go to a public hearing before trustees vote on it. The board was going to schedule the public hearing at Tuesday’s session, until the matter got tabled.
Lynden said there should be a version of the law specifically outlining the changes for the public to see, and Beardsley agreed.