Here's what I know:
The ordinance amending Chapters 1, 5, 7, 8 of the city code will be rolled out in about 3 months. HPD says there will be training, notifications, and meetings with industry to prepare everyone.
We are going to be fingerprinted by a 3rd party vendor called Morphus Trust as part of our license renewal. We are expected to pay for it. It costs $42.00. No one knows if this is a one time fee or will be annual. This is on top of our $495.00 license fee. The City says this has been forced upon them; they don't really want to do this. They actually would prefer to keep their current system.
This is being done because DPS and FBI do not want the City to use their data bases unless it's an actual criminal investigation. I haven't found out why. Some say it's economic-- I don't buy that because it's a computer search--not a lot of manpower on their part. Others say it's a buddy buddy thing to give Morphus Trust business--maybe. I wonder if it's not a civil rights issue. Could it be that The Feds don't want their data bases used just to look up people for the sake of a permit renewal?
Bottom line: If we want to know why, we need to find the people to talk to at DPS and the FBI.
The city mandates the criminal background checks for license applications and renewals. Neither the ASA president nor I ever knew about the renewal part. We get a bill and send a check. No one has ever told us that they are checking if we have a criminal record every year. We are also told that the only way FBI checks criminal background is through fingerprinting. So that means somehow they already have my fingerprints? That's news to me. Now, we have to give them again to a private company.
This affects not just automotive, but jewelry stores, thrift shops, antique businesses, scrap yards, precious metal dealers, etc., in other words, a lot of people.
In my opinion, here is another major concern. The Captain of HPD Vehicular Crimes that oversees Houston Auto Dealers says she does not know how many businesses have had their license revoked because of the criminal background check. She doesn't even think it's tracked. A member of the Houston Automotive Board told me today that they revoke licenses for auto repair shops but have never in his memory revoked one because of someone didn't pass the background check. If this is true, why is it being required?
Another major concern are the loopholes.
1. Convenience stores are exempt.
2. Corporate officers have to be fingerprinted unless they have an "authorized agent." So crooked owners just have to find a "clean" agent? What's the point then?
They may have passed the fingerprinting ordinance today. One council office said they passed it; the other thought it was tagged. I will find out for sure when the archives are up. John Ferrata and I spoke at public session and we had an interesting discussion. I think we are the only the people that knew about this.
Here is a link to the archived video if you want to see council's questions for us. February 19th, City Council, Part 1 of 3 of Public Session.
I wrote a letter to mayor and council which I meant to attach, but I will send it to out when I get to the office. This has all happened in less than a week & for four of those days I was driving in Mississippi. Please forgive me for the staccato nature of this briefing.
Our Association will be notifying our membership; I hope you will do the same.
Does anyone have ideas about where we go from here?
Kathryn van der Pol
Adolf Hoepfl & Son Garage