Washington County adult entertainment board rejects 19 applicants
By TIM WHALEY
JOHNSON CITY - Washington County's Adult-Oriented Establishment Board denied 19 applications for operating licenses and entertainer permits Monday evening, at least in part due to a failure of every applicant to provide fingerprints for state and national background checks.
Local background checks by the Washington County Sheriff's Department came back devoid of disqualifying convictions, although one entertainer did indicate she was charged with an offense that would disqualify her from being permitted to entertain, said County Commissioner Roy McClain, the board chairman.
Since it wasn't clear if the entertainer was found guilty, that alone probably wouldn't have disqualified her, County Attorney John Rambo said.
However, neither the entertainer in question, nor the two owners of two establishments - The Oasis and the Fuzzy Hole - nor any of the 16 employee/entertainer applicants supplied the required fingerprints.
That alone was sufficient to disqualify them, and the three board members present - McClain, County Commissioner Sid Campbell and Jeff Turner - unanimously voted one by one to disqualify all the applicants.
Rambo and McLain said as a board "courtesy," every applicant was sent a certified letter explaining that fingerprints, or at least getting an appointment to be fingerprinted, would be required. The requirement was also included in the application, and the follow-up letter was not required by the law under which the board operates.
In addition to failing to provide fingerprints, King was denied for failing to demonstrate that her proposed business was located in the industrial zones required of adult-businesses in Johnson City. There was some question if the board could consider zoning, but further legal review indicated that is a reason for denial, and the business address is listed as a commercial zone.
Several entertainers also failed to file their paperwork in triplicate, left a question on criminal background unanswered, and/or failed to file a photograph depicting facial features. All applicants will be refunded half of their application fees, as required by law. The fee is $100 for employees and $500 for business owners.
To "streamline" operations, the board agreed to pay the sheriff's department $25 from every application fee to do fingerprints, shoot photographs and issue identification cards. Also, every future applicant will be required to submit a $24 certified check or money order to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for conducting in-depth background checks.
Finally, separate application packets for owners and employees - complete with a yet to be finished to-do "checklist," will be provided to the county clerk's office, which distributes applications.
Owners and employees can be denied a permit for a conviction of any number of sex-related crimes, including prostitution, rape, statutory rape, aggravated sexual battery, rape of a child, or purveying adult-oriented materials to children.
At this point, with funding pulled by the County Commission, McLain serves as administrator, handling and processing paperwork. McLain said the board intends to seek a "reasonable" budget from the commission to hire a part-time clerk/administrator to do the job. If no money is forthcoming, McLain said he couldn't say yet if he will continue to serve as administrator for the board. "The County Commission has voted three times to keep this law and enforce this law," McLain said. "I think they will be willing to fund a reasonable budget."
McLain said the board also has work to do in defining what type of establishments will be classified as "adult-oriented." Meanwhile, McLain said he will meet with Rambo and the sheriff's department today to begin proceedings to seek an injunction against The Oasis, which is operating. It's not clear if the Fuzzy Hole is open for business.
Copyright June 3, 2002 Kingsport Times-News
Update for 2008: all appeals have failed and the local laws have been upheld.