Lynnfield town meeting voters have approved a bylaw that will require a fingerprint-based criminal background check for individuals seeking to acquire certain licenses in town.
At Monday night's town meeting, warrant article 6 drew perhaps the largest share of public discussion, with the other eight warrants passing in relatively short order. The article was submitted by Police Chief David Breen, who fielded a handful of questions from citizens about it before the vote.
For this particular warrant, Breen explained that the town already does criminal background checks on individuals who apply for various peddling and vending licenses, but that the added layer of scrutiny provided by fingerprinting will enable police to find active warrants or people who are using fake names. There is a one-time $100 fee for the fingerprinting.
Breen also said that Wakefield and Reading currently have similar laws on the books, Swampscott has recently approved one, and a number of other area municipalities are looking at the idea.
Town Counsel Tom Mullen addressed one citizen's concern about the by-law not applying to individual employees of a company or organization that takes out a permit. He acknowledged this as a problem, but added that the town by-law goes as far as state law allows it go in this area.
Of the citizens who expressed concern about the measure, one issue that came up was the possibility that business could become harder to conduct in Lynnfield. Others were concerned about privacy of individuals seeking something like a one-time liquor license for an event, or about whether the by-law was enforceable in the first place.
Breen explained that that new by-law would not apply to children or to nonprofits, or to those with existing licenses in town - only to those taking out town permits for business activities. The Lynnfield police chief noted that months back, some overly aggressive magazine salespeople appeared in town and conned a few seniors into buying subscriptions that never showed up. He noted that a number of other North Shore towns have had their own problems with shady or suspect vendors passing through town. Another scenario he cited was the possibility of a sex offender operating an ice cream truck.
The chief explained that vendors whose permit requests are denied because of something coming up in a background check will still have the right to appeal to the board of selectmen.
"This is only going to be applied when we want to evaluate whether individuals who want to do business in the community are fit to do so," added Town Administrator Bill Gustus.
Specifically, the by-law would apply to new applicants for the following town licenses:
Hawker and Peddler
Manager or Alternate Manager of a Liquor Licensee
Solicitors and Canvassers
Dealers in Junk, Second-Hand Articles and Antiques
Second Hand Motor Vehicle Dealer
Hackney Carriage (Taxi) Operator
Ice Cream Truck Vendor
The full text of the town's warrant article can be viewed at this link.