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Business owner heading to court to fight city?s no smoking bylaw

BY KEITH LACEY Klacey@northernlife.ca Scott Bere said heÂ?s as mad as hell and heÂ?s not going to take it anymore. The veteran Sudbury businessmanÂ?who currently owns Nickel Acme Printers Inc.
BY KEITH LACEY

Scott Bere said heÂ?s as mad as hell and heÂ?s not going to take it anymore.

The veteran Sudbury businessmanÂ?who currently owns Nickel Acme Printers Inc.Â?will be defending himself after recently being issued a $250 fine under the cityÂ?s controversial no-smoking bylaw.

Bere will defend a charge he obstructed a city bylaw enforcement officer who had visited his printing business in August.

Â?He just marched in my door and introduced himself as a city bylaw officer and said he was there to investigate a complaint,Â? said Bere, 71. Â?I asked him what the complaint was about and he would only comment about something in the back of the office.

Â?I asked him to tell me more about that and he refused. When he told me he didnÂ?t have to give me anymore information and that was all I was going to get, I again asked him to give me more information. He refused again.Â?

Bere said he politely declined the bylaw officerÂ?s request to visit the back shop and soon received a formal warning he had violated a bylaw provision by Â?obstructingÂ? the officer.

The bylaw officer also complained about him not posting a Â?no smokingÂ? sign on the front entrance to his business, but a sign was clearly visible only a couple of feet away on a bulletin board, said Bere.

He didnÂ?t want to post the paper sign on the door as it would become damaged and informed the bylaw officer that if he would pay for a more resilient acrylic sign he would gladly post it on the door.

That request was flatly refused, said Bere.

A few days later, the same scene was repeated with the same bylaw officer again showing up unannounced requesting to enter and investigate the back shop, said Bere.

Â?Again, I told him I wanted more information and again he refused to give me anything,Â? said Bere.
This time, however, Bere was formally charged with a bylaw infraction and issued a $250 ticket.

The very next day, on Aug. 6, Bere received a third visit, again from the same bylaw officer, but this time the officer requested to do a Â?formal inspectionÂ? of the back shop.

Bere says he allowed the inspection, which revealed there were no violations of the smoking bylaw, which went into effect May 31.

If the police believed he was conducting illegal activities out of his business, they would not only need a search warrant, but reasonable and probable grounds for conducting a search, said Bere.

Bere said he was shocked to learn the city bylaw allows officers virtually unrestricted access to enter anywhere in his shop, without notice, and without a search warrant. The bylaw also doesnÂ?t require reasonable or probable grounds for carrying out what Bere called Â?a fishing expeditionÂ?.

Â?I was never once told by this bylaw officer of any complaint about people smoking in the back shop,Â? said Bere. Â?ThatÂ?s why IÂ?m fighting this thing.

Â?I also have a big problem with any bylaw that allows these officers to come in unannounced and think they have the right to conduct searches without any grounds or without telling me whatÂ?s going on.

Â?If the police received a complaint, they would have to inform me about any criminal allegations and they would need a search warrant to conduct any search of my business. ThereÂ?s just no way a bylaw officer should think he has special privileges even our police donÂ?t have.Â?

Why the city has passed a bylaw allowing bylaw officers stronger powers to deal with the no smoking bylaw than are given to police to enforce the criminal code Â?is a mystery to meÂ?, said Bere.

Bere said he couldnÂ?t in good conscience let these incidents slip away without defending himself in court.

Â?Some of the provisions in this no smoking bylaw are scandalous,Â? said Bere. Â?Our communityÂ?s priorities are messed up if we allocate these kind of resources and these kind of powers to enforce a no smoking bylaw.Â?

It also irks him that during each visit, the bylaw officer had a plain view of the front office operations and could clearly see there was no smoking going on and all required signs were posted.

Â?I felt as if the request to investigate my back shop was simple harassment and the officer was asking to do it for no better reason than the bylaw had given him the power to go back there whenever he wished, whether he gave good and valid reasons or not,Â? said Bere.

By going public with this matter, Bere said he hopes citizens in this community will learn this no smoking bylaw is infringing on citizensÂ? basic liberties in ways that are not well known.

He also hopes a new city council will take another look at the bylaw and certain provisions in it that donÂ?t punish law-abiding business owners who pay good taxes and employ people, said Bere.