Contretemps Over Firefighters, Breast Cancer T-Shirts, And Licenses

ANNAPOLIS, MD &#8211 City Council members questioned Mayor Josh Cohen about whether the city was justified in asking the firefighters’ union to obtain a solicitors license to sell its breast cancer fundraiser T-shirts.

The union is selling the shirts throughout October at the fire house at 620 Taylor Ave. for $12. All the proceeds go to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The city sent a letter to the union on Sept. 28, saying its members were soliciting donations without a license.

“They are not going to door to door soliciting funds; they are an agency of the city. I don’t understand how we impose that on our own fire department,” Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson (D-4th Ward) said. “I think we are interceding on something that really isn’t ours to intercede on.”

A solicitors license is required for any group seeking donations to ensure activities are not detrimental to the public health, safety and/or welfare, according to Annapolis City Code. The fee for a license it $35, but Cohen waived the cost for the firefighters.

“How you feel about this issue depends on how you look at it,” Cohen said. “The way I look at it is we have the city code. Should our fire department follow our city code?”

City Code 7.44.010 reads as follows:

A person may not solicit or canvass upon the public streets, roads, highways, alleys or on any public way or by calling at residences, without the previous consent of the occupants, for the purpose of seeking donations of any kind, without first having registered in the office of the City Clerk and having received written approval of the Mayor.

Cohen emphasized that it’s a one-page form that would take the union less than five minutes to complete. He added that he would be amenable to creating an exemption in the code for city employees, but the way it stands now even City Council members must fill out the form.

“I feel that you handled it properly,” Alderman Ross Arnett (D-8th Ward) said. “Let’s lead by example by having the city adhere to its own code.”

Alderman Fred Paone (R-2nd Ward) wasn’t sure whether selling shirts from the fire house even violated code. A point that Lt. Carroll Springs, president of the Annapolis Professional Firefighters, made to Patch on Oct. 2

Paone pointed to institutions like St. John’s College and the Naval Academy and asked whether they needed a license to solicit donations through their alumni foundations.

“I don’t see them walking up and down the street. How are they in violation of this?” Paone asked. “I question the charitableness of any number of groups that solicit me, but these are our own firefighters.”

Cohen pointed to the phrase in city code that reads “any public way” and said, “I’m confident in our city staff who looked at this.”

From The Annapolis Patch