At first blush, the citizens’ complaint filed June 20 with the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board seeking to revoke the Trump International Hotel’s liquor license might be dismissed as frivolous. After all, the Trump hotel, located in the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue, has been up and running since October 2016, selling booze, fruit of the vine and beer to any adult who can cover the check.
A closer read, however, makes a good case for the ABC board’s taking a hard look at the complainants’ argument that Donald Trump, the “true and actual owner” of the Trump Old Post Office LLC trading as the Trump International Hotel, is not a person of “good character” as required by law.
The complaint, filed on behalf of seven D.C. residents by attorney Joshua A. Levy, contends that if good character involves an evaluation of someone’s moral and ethical qualities, including the virtues of honesty, integrity and how a person treats others, especially the less fortunate, then Trump flunks the test because of his behavior “both before and during his presidency.”
Without question, the seven complainants aren’t cranks, bit players or self-aggrandizing attention-seekers. They are serious and prominent citizens drawn from the civic and religious sectors of our nation’s capital.
From the courts:
Henry H. Kennedy Jr., an inactive senior U.S. District Court judge, who served on the federal bench from 1997 until his retirement in 2011. Kennedy previously spent three years as a federal prosecutor in the District.
Joan Goldfrank, a retired magistrate judge of the D.C. Superior Court who has served as executive attorney of the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility and senior attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice Professional Responsibility Advisory Office. She is a member of the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure, the independent city agency that reviews allegations of misconduct by judges of the D.C. Courts.
From the faith community:
The Rev. William Lamar IV, senior pastor of the city’s historic Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church. Lamar was formerly managing director of leadership education at Duke University Divinity School.
The Rev. Jennifer Butler, founding executive director of Faith in Public Life, a strategy center for faith and politics, and former chair of the White House Council on Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships.
The Rev. Timothy Tee Boddie, general secretary and chief administrative officer of the Progressive National Baptist Convention. Boddie also served 11 years as university chaplain at Hampton University in Virginia.
Rabbi Jack Moline, a Conservative rabbi who since 2015 has been executive director and president of Interfaith Alliance in the District.
Rabbi Aaron Potek, an Orthodox rabbi who works with Jews in their 20s and 30s in the District. He has had internships at Beth Israel Congregation in New Orleans and Hillels at Hunter College and Harvard University, and for two years was the campus rabbi for the Northwestern University Hillel.
Their complaint says the president has “repeatedly been deceitful,” specifically citing statements involving his net worth, conflicts of interest and payments made to pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels. It says he “lacks integrity,” citing lawsuits claiming that Trump University defrauded students; alleging that his companies refused to pay business contractors, “forcing them to go to court to spend money in order to get paid”; noting that at least 16 women have said he sexually assaulted them; and that he has “engaged in racism.”
But didn’t the ABC board conduct a “good character” investigation at the time that Trump International Hotel filed its license application? Board members apparently didn’t find Trump wanting two years ago, it could be argued. But attorney Levy told me in an interview that nothing in the law precludes the board from considering the complaint now. The recent and past events it notes, he said, require the board to order the hotel to show cause why the board should not suspend or revoke its liquor license.
When I asked the Trump Organization to comment, a spokesperson emailed this response: “The complaint is patently frivolous and an obvious attempt to harass and to distort the law for political gain. Politics has no place in the licensing process and this complaint is an assault on the hundreds of employees who count on the property for their employment and livelihoods.”
Also, it should be noted that back in 1981, the D.C. Court of Appeals, in Haight v. ABC Board — another liquor license challenge — held that the court construed the “statutory requirement of good moral conduct and general fitness . . . simply to proscribe illegal conduct and no more.”
The complainants, therefore, may face a steep hill to climb.
On Friday, the chair of the ABC board, Donovan Anderson, told me that the matter is pending. Here’s hoping the board weighs in as it should.
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