Business owner sues city employees

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By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor

A local shop owner, Steve Stempinski, is suing three city officials, alleging “malicious prosecution,” after receiving a citation for improper reporting in accordance to the City of Madison’s pawnshop ordinance in September of 2016.

Stempinski’s suit takes aim at Madison Police Chief Bill Ashburn, Madison Policeman Phillip Malcom, and City Attorney Joe Reitman, seeking compensation for “special damages” incurred due to the citation issued.

Stempinski is the owner of Steve’s Place in Madison and believes his business was unfairly cited for a violation that should not apply to his store. Stempinski argues that his shop is not a pawnshop, but is classified as a discount department store, according to his business license, which was issued by the City of Madison.

According to the lawsuit filed, Stempinski is accusing Ashburn, Malcom and Reitman of “not acting within the scope of their respective duties when they pursued a prosecution without probable cause.” The lawsuit goes on to explain, “By pursuing a prosecution knowing (or should have known) that the discount department store was not a pawn shop the defendants acted outside the scope of heir respective employment and are not entitled to sovereign immunity.”

According to the lawsuit filed, Stempinski is seeking compensation for incurring attorney fees in the amount of $6,000 and lost wages and business income in the amount of $8,000, and “medical expenses and pain and suffering in the amount of $12,000.”

Over the course of the last couple of years, Stempinski has been battling the Madison Mayor and City Council over efforts to tighten regulations on pawnshops, although he maintains his shop has never technically been deemed a pawnshop.

“I have been discussing this with the city council, trying to keep them from violating state law,” said Stempinski, who believes the city’s pawnshop ordinance mandating firearms sale reporting is in violation of state law.

The new pawnshop ordinance requires owners to submit merchandise records to the local police department in an effort to better locate stolen goods and requires a 7-day hold on firearms before reselling them.

Stempinski maintains that his opposition to the new ordinance is solely based on principle, believing his shop does not fall under the ordinance since his business license classifies the shop as a discount department store.

“Either way, this shouldn’t apply to me,” said Stempinski.

Ashburn, Malcom and Reitman could not be reached for comment at press time, Tuesday, June 27.

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