BRUSLY — The town’s former police chief is at the center of yet another controversy after the state’s Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control rejected an application he and his girlfriend filed to sell beer and alcohol at a convenience store the couple recently purchased.
ATC Commissioner Troy Hebert said Saturday his office denied issuing a liquor license to Jamie Whaley, who resigned from office in April 2014 after he was indicted on charges of malfeasance in office and theft, because they suspect he lied on his application about his ownership stake in Back Brusly Grocery.
ATC’s denial came two days before the Brusly Town Council is set to hold a special meeting at 5:45 p.m. Monday to discuss and possibly take action on the same application.
Businesses are required to gain liquor license approval from ATC and the local governments.
On applications filed with the town of Brusly and ATC, Whaley claimed to only have 5 percent equity in Back Brusly Grocery LLC with his girlfriend, Tricia Michel, owning the other 95 percent.
However, ATC agents suspected that wasn’t actually true since Michel claimed on supplemental documents filed with their application that she worked full-time as a registered nurse for a home health service.
“After intense questioning by my agents, it became obvious he was going to be the main person running the business — which he knew would disqualify him,” Hebert said.
Louisiana law prohibits convicted felons from obtaining liquor licenses.
But a section of the law contains a provision that says only applicants with more than 5 percent of the membership interest in corporations or a limited liability company are required to meet the list of qualifications to obtain a liquor license.
Whaley refused to comment, referring all questions to his attorney.
His attorney, Tommy Thompson, did not return calls Saturday seeking comment.
According to a bill of sale, Whaley and Michel purchased Back Brusly Grocery from its previous owners for $60,000 on Sept. 25.
They bought the store, in the 1200 block of Main Street, two months after Whaley pleaded no contest to malfeasance in office and was sentenced to 42 months’ probation in a plea deal following his June 2014 arrest for not compensating the town for seven guns he gave to a licensed firearms dealer to sell.
A “no contest” plea has the same effect as a guilty plea in criminal court but would not be an admission of guilt in civil court.
But that wasn’t Whaley’s first time on the other side of the law.
A state judge sentenced him to 18 months’ supervised probation and imposed a $500 fine in April 2014 after Whaley pleaded guilty to theft and malfeasance in office following a state investigation that uncovered he used a town-issued credit card for personal use.
Because its not uncommon for convicted felons to lie about ownership stake in businesses just to obtain liquor permits, Hebert said, he sent agents to the convenient store Friday afternoon where they found Whaley working in the store alone.
All the liquor on the shelf was covered with plastic bags and beer coolers roped off to prevent any future sale of alcohol at the store, he said.
Whaley can appeal the ATC’s decision.
As for his application with the town, Mayor Joey Normand said Saturday the council will still hold its specially-called meeting and possibly vote on the issue.
Normand is hoping the council will take its cue from ATC regarding its decision.
“Jamie Whaley has never seen a law that he thinks he has to follow,” Normand said in an emailed statement. “Anyone who believes this is anything but a Jamie Whaley conceived and managed business is foolish or naive.”
In an phone interview before the ATC’s decision, Whaley’s lawyer said he felt confident the couple would have gotten the Town Council’s approval for the permits.
Thompson said if the couple was unable to obtain a liquor license for the business, “there are other avenues we can take.”
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