LONG BEACH — A court ruling is forcing this city to weaken its charitable solicitation ordinance, but police say they will be able to continue strict enforcement despite the modification.
The City Council Tuesday tentatively approved removing sections of the ordinance that were held unconstitutional in June by a Superior Court judge for impinging on freedom of speech. The ruling came in an appeal against the ordinance by a man who was convicted of collecting money for a youth foundation he headed before the 1984 Olympic Games.
To conform with the ruling, the council struck provisions of the law added in the late 1970s that required solicitors to limit overhead costs to 25% of contributions. Also, the city will no longer be able to bar issuance of a solicitation permit to anyone solely because of a previous felony conviction.
Final Vote Due Oct. 13
The council is scheduled to give final approval of the changes on Oct. 13. If approved, the ordinance would take effect in 30 days, said Assistant City Atty. Robert Shannon.
Even with the changes, enough latitude remains in the city's charitable solicitation laws to crack down on unscrupulous solicitors, said Police Sgt. Tom Taylor.
"We are going to be requiring bonds (and) investigating the applicants," said Taylor, who investigates licenses and permits.
The more serious problem, he said, is that of charitable solicitors who work the streets without proper permits. He said he rarely receives complaints concerning those who have been granted permits.
City Prosecutor John Vander Lans said he, too, does not believe that the modifications will prove troublesome.
Few Cases Prosecuted
"We've only seen one case on this, to the best of my knowledge," Vander Lans said. Few cases are submitted for prosecution because charitable solicitation cases are difficult and time-consuming to investigate.
The change is brought about by a 1984 case against Donald L. Green, 52, who headed the American Youth Sports Foundation in a nationwide door-to-door solicitation campaign that included Long Beach. Deputy City Prosecutor Gerry Ensley said Green, who had a previous federal conviction for interstate transportation of stolen securities, allowed some of his employees in 1984 to keep as much as 60% of the contributions they received.
Solicitors falsely represented that they were seeking donations on behalf of the Olympic effort, Vander Lans said.
Ensley said Green was convicted on misdemeanor charges of fraudulent solicitation and was sentenced to 90 days in jail. He appealed a second and different charge of violating the city's charitable solicitation ordinance.
Citing the U.S. Supreme Court's finding that charitable solicitations are protected under the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech, Superior Court Judge Jack M. Newman said high solicitation costs do not necessarily establish fraud. He also invalidated the provision that refuses permits to charitable solicitors who employ felons.