Judge Defers Sentencing Of Small Business Owner

Small business owner Katie Brouseau, second from right, is surrounded by supporters Thursday morning outside the Municipal Courtroom following her hearing. From left, Doris Prokop, Atomic City Quilts owner Shelly Kuropatwinski, LACDC Chair David Jolly, Chamber Manager Nancy Partridge, Brouseau and small business owner Karen Wray. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Local small business owner Katie Brousseau prepares to pay the clerk the $60 court fee Thursday following her hearing at the Justice Center. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Los Alamos Daily Post

Municipal Court Judge Alan Kirk deferred sentencing for 90 days of Warm Hearts Yarn owner Katie Brousseau for a sign code violation.

Los Alamos County issued a criminal summons June 21 to Brousseau to appear in court July 7 for the violation. She pled guilty to the charge during Thursday’s proceedings at the Los Alamos Justice Center.

“I am in violation of having my banner up for more than 30 consecutive days,” Brousseau told the judge. She also explained that the complaint that she violated “public right of way” did not apply to her store at 1247 Central Ave. It turns out that was a clerical error.

Brousseau said her banner has been up in front of her store since October. The County sign code allows a business owner to obtain a permit to display a banner for up to 30 consecutive days and obtain two such permits in a calendar year. Brousseau explained that she has a contractor completing the necessary paperwork to submit to the County to obtain a permit required to install a permanent sign.

Judge Kirk told Brousseau he would defer sentencing for 90 days, which most likely will involve paying fines and fees, to give her contractor time to get the paperwork submitted to the County. He did order her to pay a $60 fee Thursday, which he said is a state requirement.

“You must not get any more violations during this 90 day period,” Kirk said. Brousseau assured him she has removed her banner.

Community Development Department Director Paul Andrus discussed the sign code situation Friday afternoon with the Los Alamos Daily Post.

“We have had conversations with Katie and she met with staff on a path forward for getting her temporary sign needs met,” Andrus said. “We also met with her a couple of times with the planning staff to assist her in finding a solution. As time went on, the code enforcement process was initiating, and she was sent a notice that the time period was ending.”

The criminal summons goes out to a business owner when the time period ends without a solution being accomplished, he said.

“The process is done to essentially provide the business owner motivation to get the project completed,” Andrus said. “Our goal is to educate and assist and we give business owners a period of time to get their violations corrected. In Katie’s case, we have every intention of helping her through the process to get her permanent sign.”

Andrus also said his department works on a complaint process. If someone contacts his department and complains about a property then his team follows up and check it out. Recently, a person anonymously sent the County a list with photographs of several dozen local businesses thought to be in violation of the sign code.

“It turns out about half of those businesses were in compliance, about 27 or so,” he said. “Most were banners and some were for a temporary sale so they were short term. We want to remind folks that they do need to come in and get a temporary permit to display their banner for up to 30 days.”

Andrus said his department will be following up on that list and talking with those business owners found to be in violation and encouraging them to obtain a permit.

“We have no intention of arbitrarily surprising anyone, Andrus said, we want to work with the businesses to help them get their needs met and get in compliance.”