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Fundraiser moved after court denies injunction

May 13, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- A battle between the City of Hagerstown and an attorney over a proposed fundraising event was settled Wednesday when the event was moved.

The battle reached Washington County Circuit Court, where attorney Timothy Gordon on Wednesday asked a judge to prevent the city from shutting down his event based on fire-code violations.

After Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. turned down his request for a restraining order, Gordon said the fundraiser for the Community Free Clinic will be held Friday as planned, but at the Miller House at 135 W. Washington St.

Gordon had tried to hold the fundraiser at his property at 110-116 N. Potomac St. However, city officials said Gordon didn't have permission to hold a public event there because the building didn't have a sprinkler system, a fire alarm and other safety features.

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Gordon, a lawyer who represented himself in court, argued that he was holding the event as an individual, not as a business, so the regulations shouldn't have applied to him.

City Attorney Mark Boyer argued that Gordon's North Potomac Street building is a mixed-use building and the fire code applies to functions held there.

Gordon also said many people donated their time and effort to plan the fundraiser. If the event couldn't be held, he said, those trying to help would not be able to provide immediate funding to a "desperate free clinic."

The judge called it an "interesting situation" and said the Community Free Clinic serves a valuable community function, with more people making use of its services as the economic climate deteriorates.

Despite that, Long said, "The overriding concern this court has is for public safety."

Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker said Tuesday the property at 110-116 N. Potomac St. does not meet state requirements for a fire alarm system, a sprinkler system, fire wall separation and emergency lighting.

In a letter dated May 7, Douglas P. DeHaven, a city fire marshal, informed Gordon he could not hold his live-entertainment event until those requirements were met.

The Board of License Commissioners for Washington County, known as the liquor board, had given Gordon permission to sell liquor at the fundraiser. But after learning the property didn't have the approval of fire officials, the liquor board said the license would be invalid unless the state fire marshal approved use of the building for the event by Friday.

Gordon, as owner and majority shareholder of Three Sons LLC, which owns 110-116 N. Potomac St., on Tuesday filed a petition for an injunction and restraining order, alleging the situation was "more political than it is for public safety."

After losing his bid for court relief, Gordon went to the liquor board to ask for a one-day liquor license for the event at the Miller House and noted the city fire marshal would conduct an inspection of the premises today.

The three-member liquor board agreed to grant the license.

Hawbaker said he did not expect today's inspection to be a problem.

The Miller House is "currently a property that has all the code requirements it needs," Hawbaker said.

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