Club M Hearing

September 8, 2008 8:01:47 PM PDT
A case challenging the Fresno Police Department's use of officers as paid security guards is being settled.When Fresno police moved in to shut this club down, alleging building code violations, it resulted in a legal battle police and the city appear to be backing away from.

Fresno Police and city code enforcement officers say they revoked this clubs Dance permit, which allows music and dancing because of problems with the electrical wiring. But the club owner and his attorneys claimed there was another reason. They claim Fresno Police became angry when club owner Jay Ghazal refused to hire police officers to perform security duties at the club and another restaurant he owns and suspended the clubs dance permit. Ghazal and his attorney Ron Sawl challenged the suspension at a city hearing. Sawl grilled city employees about police involvement in the supposed building code violations, and planned to call the Sgt. in charge of the police POP team, which sets up the contracts.

The hearing was set to continue today, but the City has offered the club owner a settlement. Full details have not been released, but Action News has learned It would allow Club M to operate giving them 30 days to fix electrical problems. The club also asked that police would not offer their services to the club.

Bar and club owners aren't required to hire Fresno Police, but they are required to provide a security plan that has an option of hiring police officers. The plan approved by police Club and bar owners and others who hire the officers, are charged between 47 and 55 dollars an hour, per officer plus 20 dollars for a police car.

For the past three years it's become a more than one million dollar a year business for the department.

During the 2008 fiscal year the department took in more than 1.3 million dollars by contracting its services to 2 hundred businesses and organizations.

The big money came from the Fresno Fair, Fresno State and St. Agnes Hospitals. The top paying bars and nightlcubs were Aldo's, The Elbow Room and Bobby Salazars.

Some bar and club owners and managers have told Action News they felt intimidated into hiring the officers. Because of that, Chief Dyer then announced a change of policy. He said to avoid any appearance of impropriety police officers would no longer directly approach club owners about providing security, but use city building code officers to make the offer.

The city attorney's office confirmed an offer to dismiss the case against Club M has been made. Attorneys are reviewing it, and are expected to appear before a judge at city hall on Wednesday to either accept or reject the offer.

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