Businesses have right to face accusers
December 10, 2020
Over the last few weeks, 42 businesses in Whitman County have been visited by Liquor and Cannabis Board officers from outside of the area.
They’ve driven more than an hour into our communities to investigate and cite local eateries, taverns and other places based on mostly anonymous complaints. In addition to acting on anonymous tips, those same officers, local business leaders say, refuse to allow them to copy or photograph the complaints.
Apparently, they are acting on completely anonymous tips or they’re hiding the identities of coronavirus tattletales. In the alternative, they may even be serving as their own tipsters at the behest of their bureaucratic bosses. Regardless, the practice should be halted.
One of the basic tenets of American criminal justice is the right to face your accuser. That right is enshrined in the Sixth Amendment.
The right is guaranteed in criminal matters, but no so much in civil matters. But the citations being handed out fall within a gray area.
Agencies say they are sending out their agents to “educate” business leaders disobeying edicts the governor’s own attorneys say he cannot legally enforce. Yet, the governor claims violation of his coronavirus shutdown edicts are felonies under state law, and are punishable by fines and jail time. If that’s truly the case, then the Sixth Amendment applies.
Business owners and managers not only deserve the right to face their accusers, they also deserve the right to be free from bureaucratic harassment based on anonymous tips.