The new owner of boarding houses on Broad Street will be able to get his business license back, according to a recent order from Mobile County Circuit Court Judge James Patterson.
The council voted to revoke the business license of Randall Petrie for the boarding homes at 259, 261 and 263 Broad Street in October 2020 due to poor living conditions, despite pleas from Petrie for more time to improve security.
Both Petrie and his attorney, B.J. Lyon, declined to comment for this story, but Petrie previously told councilors that at the time he purchased the properties, he was unaware of a previous council public hearing on the living conditions at the houses.
The council had voted to revoke the business license of the boarding houses’ owners more than a year prior based on testimony referencing the living conditions there, but before the revocation was finalized, the previous owners sold the properties to Petrie.
Since taking over as landlord, Petrie said he’s reduced the number of tenants from a high of 37 in the three buildings and made each of them sign a “full lease.” Petrie also spent as much as $13,000 on security cameras on the property since taking over ownership, according to the order.
Despite the changes and security upgrades, the city argued the houses were the source of almost 300 calls for service and were the site of a homicide investigation.
However, the July 9 order from Patterson reversed the business license revocation because, among other reasons, the plaintiff submitted an affidavit from a Mobile Police Department sergeant saying there had been no criminal investigations of the property since Petrie took over ownership.
“Except for the presumed arrest of the murder suspect, no evidence was presented by the [city] that any arrest or conviction occurred as the result of any other police call,” the order stated. “Other than the homicide police call, no evidence was provided by the defendant to identify the origin or maker of any police call or the identity [of] any person allegedly violating the law.”
In the order, Patterson also argued that for the revocation to be justified, the new owner would have to knowingly allow illegal acts to take place. Patterson wrote the city could not prove that in Petrie’s case.
“The evidence demonstrates to the contrary, that as a landlord, [Petrie] took significant measures to prevent such occurrence and the violation of any other penal law,” the order states. “The fact that the homicide and a number of police calls occurred, without more, does not prove that the plaintiff ‘knowingly suffer[ed]’ the homicide to be committed and/or the violation of other penal laws of the municipality and/or of the state of Alabama.”
Council President Levon Manzie, who pushed for the revocation of the business license for the houses in his district, said in a phone interview that he was “disappointed” and had started to discuss ways to continue to “fight valiantly.”
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