GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

December 11, 2012

Peddlers may have to trade fingerprints for license to sell in Rockport

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — ROCKPORT — A proposal that would require more thorough backgrounds checks for certain types of vendors, such as door-to-door salesmen or peddlers, may soon be considered by local voters.

The proposal has already passed a thorough review by both the town counsel, Koppleman and Paige, and the Government Bylaw Committee.

The proposal received full support of the bylaw committee when it met Monday night, said co-chairman Peter Goodwin.

Rockport’s bylaw is similar to one passed by the town of Norton earlier this year. The Norton bylaw states that its selectmen, in cooperation with the police chief, will make recommendations to a licensing authority about issuing license for alcoholic beverage license holders, door-to-door salesmen, peddlers, hawkers, pawn brokers and solicitors applying for a license.

Background checks, in addition to fingerprinting, would be done through the state police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Goodwin said he received legal advice about Rockport’s proposed bylaw from Town Administrator Linda Sanders, who contacted Lauren Goldberg of Koppleman and Paige, who also represents Norton.

In her letter to Sanders, Goldberg outlined her professional opinion for selectmen: “Our thinking was that where the board is likely the licensing authority for some or all of the licenses that may be issued, and where some of the matters involve big-picture policy decisions, rather than just procedural issues, it makes sense for the board to adopt the regulations,” she wrote.

The legislation is proposed by police Chief John McCarthy, who said the Monday night meeting was beneficial to the bylaw construction process.

“Nothing was dramatically changed between the original proposal and what was talked about last night,” McCarthy said Tuesday. “It seemed the committee was happy with the proposed bylaw changes.”

Goodwin said some committee members brought up a few civil rights questions and ethics issues.

He said there were some comments about the extent of the background checks, if somebody committed a misdemeanor crime decades ago, how that outcome would affect the licensing process.

McCarthy said all license considerations would be reasonable.

In addition, the proposed Rockport bylaw states anyone will be able to view his or her background check and have a chance to make any corrections or arguments against a license denial.

The issue was to go before selectmen Tuesday night. If approved by selectmen, the bylaw would go on a special town meeting warrant; even if approved by voters, it would still have to be approved by the state attorney general, state police and the FBI, because their databases would be used.

Before the meeting, Selectmen Vice Chairman Paul Murphy said the fingerprinting bylaw was an important one.

Murphy said Rockport has always had a large elderly population and some door-to-door salesmen, unfortunately, may try to victimize them.

He said the safety of residents should come first, while respecting residents’ civil rights and proper protocol.

“I’m all for public safety,” Murphy said. “Anyway we can make sure people are upstanding citizens, we should.”

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3455, or jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.