MWRA: ordinance ‘unconstitutional’Written by John Krudy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
After the City of Toledo first notified convenience store owners of the new regulations in Toledo Municipal Ordinance 721 on March 17, local carryout owners formed the Midwest Retailer’s Association (MWRA) as a legal defense group.
“The city is breaking some of the most important contract and constitutional laws we have,” said Scott Ciolek, a lawyer who represents the MWRA.
MWRA’s case is primarily based on constitutional law. Ciolek writes in his complaint to the U.S. District Court of Northwestern Ohio (Sixth Circuit) that Ordinance 721 is unconstitutionally vague; its requirement that owners hand over surveillance tapes to city officials, without a warrant, violates the search and seizure rights detailed in the Fourth Amendment; and the mandated transfer of those tapes could violate an owner’s Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
Ciolek said the ordinance also violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection clause, since it requires only applicants from Michigan to file a background check from that state, in addition to the normal one from Ohio. While he doesn’t allege discrimination in the case, he said it may be directed at Arab-Americans from the Detroit area.
Ridi agreed: “Ninety percent of the owners of stores under 5,000 square feet in Toledo are Arab-American,” he said. “Our members feel it is discriminatory.”
Ciolek said the law could be misused to affect other businesses under 5,000 square feet, since the law says it applies to any convenience store that makes “Retail sales of food and beverage for home consumption.”
Toledo Law Department attorneys Jim Bishop and Keith Winterhalter are representing the city. Neither would comment since the case was in litigation. In their response to the complaint, they wrote, “Plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action for which relief can be granted,” and asked that the case be dismissed.