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Circuit court judge orders Davis Funeral Home to close

July 11, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

SMITHSBURG - Davis Funeral Home near Smithsburg was ordered by a Washington County Circuit Court judge on June 25 to shut down because the business had been operating without at least one of the proper licenses since Nov. 30, 2002, according to records in Washington County Circuit Court.

The funeral home didn't meet renewal requirements for a funeral home establishment license because taxes had not been paid, said Gregory Harthausen, president of the Maryland State Board of Morticians.

Dennis Davis could not be reached for comment this week.

Jeff Davis said his father, who owns the funeral home at 12525 Bradbury Ave. north of Smithsburg, did not want to comment.

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Davis said his father cannot reapply for the required licenses for one year.

Jeff Davis, who also is a Davis Funeral Home employee, said he applied this week for his mortician's license in hopes of reopening the funeral home under a different name in August.

"Our families need not to worry. We're still there for them," Jeff Davis said.

Davis Funeral Home may still pick up bodies, Jeff Davis said. Customers are being referred to Osborne Funeral Home in Williamsport for embalmings, death certificates and funeral arrangements, he said.

Eric Andrews, Dennis Davis' Hagerstown attorney, emphasized the problem with the license was about taxes and had nothing to do with Davis' practice of mortuary science.

Davis was not able to get a certificate of good standing from the Maryland Department of Assessment and Taxation when he tried to renew his license in November 2002, Andrews said.

According to court records, Davis Funeral Home had several tax liens in recent years because the business owed money to the Comptroller of Maryland's office. While some of the cases listed the judgment as settled, some did not.

Michael Walsh, spokesman for the comptroller's office, said Davis Funeral Home caught up on its late employee withholding taxes in June.

Washington County Treasurer Todd Hershey said Tuesday that the funeral home was not late in paying its real estate tax as of that day.

Harthausen said the board ordered Davis in August 2003 to cease and desist operating his funeral home.

That same month, the board revoked Dennis Davis' mortician's license, court records state.

Davis continued to operate the funeral home business, so the board took the matter to court, Harthausen said.

The funeral home establishment and mortician's licenses must be renewed every two years, Harthausen said. Along with renewal fees totaling $1,100, the funeral home must pass an annual unannounced inspection, the mortician must earn 12 continuing education credits every two years and the business must be in good standing with the state assessments and taxation department.

The funeral home was unable to meet renewal requirements because it missed tax payments, Harthausen said.

In recent years, the board has ordered Dennis Davis to pay $7,000 in fines for operating the funeral home without a license, according to court records.

Harthausen said he did not know if the board still was going to demand that the fines be paid.

The August order also prevented Davis from getting his licenses renewed for a year, court records state. Harthausen said that one-year probation was delayed until the June 25 court order because Davis had continued to operate the funeral home.

After the June 25 court order, Davis Funeral Home was to immediately contact its customers with pre-need accounts to make them aware of the situation and present their options, Harthausen said.

Customers with revocable contracts can get a refund with interest, Harthausen said. Customers with irrevocable contracts can have their contracts transferred to another funeral home, he said.

Harthausen said he did not know whether Davis Funeral Home had received any cease and desist orders prior to the one in August 2003.

On Tuesday, The Herald-Mail sent a Maryland Public Information Act request to the Board of Morticians requesting copies of all cease and desist orders for the funeral home and other documents related to the funeral home's licensing problems.

The board's executive director, Elizabeth Groninger, said board officials were consulting with their attorney to work on the request.

As of Friday, The Herald-Mail had not received a response.

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