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Alderman gets license to bartend in city

Sopolinski steps down as License Committee chairman in exchange

Jan. 14, 2009

Third District Alderman David Sopolinski has stepped down as chairman of the city’s License Committee, a condition he had to comply with in order to receive a bartender license.

During a Jan. 6 meeting, Alderwoman Sue Bostedt was named chairwoman of the committee in a unanimous vote. Sopolinski remains a voting member of the License Committee, which oversees the city’s bartenders and taverns.

Bostedt said members of the committee will be keeping “a close eye” on Sopolinski, ensuring he does not use his power on the committee to benefit his future employer, Butch’s Liar’s Club, 3907 S. Lake Drive.

Preferential treatment?

Sopolinski has taken some criticism for actions he took chairing the License Committee that granted Butch’s Liar’s Club an outside party permit in both July 2007 and 2008, even though the applications were not made 30 days in advance as required to give neighbors proper notice.

“An exception to this requirement was made on your behalf by Alderperson Sopolinski,” wrote Deputy City Clerk/Treasurer Jean DeMores in a July 2008 letter to the owners of Butch’s Liar’s Club.

There was also a request to erect a canopy tent for the party behind the tavern was approved before it appeared on an agenda in November 2007, according to a city document.

Officials divided

On a 3-2 vote, the Common Council approved Sopolinski’s resubmitted application for a bartender license with certain conditions Dec. 16. Besides having to step down as chairman of the License Committee, Sopolinski has to recuse himself from matters pertaining to where he works.

The council voted on the license request because the License Committee was split on the issue, with Sopolinski abstaining.

Bostedt and Alderman Ted Jarosh voted in favor of Sopolinski’s application while Brickner, the third committee member, and Aldermen Jeffrey Mayer opposed it. With council President Debbie Fliss absent, Mayor Al Richards broke the tie.

“I’m not going to deny a man a paycheck,” Jarosh said.

Jarosh said he voted to issue the license because City Attorney Michele Ford indicated it would be illegal for the council to deny Sopolinski a bartender license based on concerns there might be conflicts of interest in the future.

Brickner and Mayer disagreed.

“Personally, I think (Sopolinski) made the right decision the first time when he withdrew his application,” he said.

Brickner said having a member of the License Committee work as a bartender in the city “doesn’t look good” in the public eye.

Mayer called it “a direct conflict of interest.”

He added, “I just believe it’s an ethical issue, not a legal issue.”

Alderman needed job

Sopolinski, 63, said he needed a job and that sluggish economic conditions made it difficult for him to find employment.

The alderman said he has been offered a part-time job at Butch’s. Working at the tavern would also be ideal because it’s located about a block away from his home, Sopolinski said.

Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.

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