The threat of a lawsuit has the Greenwood City Council prepared to reverse a decision it made to ban door-to-door solicitors last month.
The city council voted 8-1 in early March to approve a ban on solicitors and peddlers. The ban would have prevented anyone from going door-to-door to sell goods and services to Greenwood neighborhoods, with exceptions for children, non-profits, religious organizations and political activism.
Shortly after the ban was approved, the city received a letter from an unidentified national lawn care company threatening a lawsuit if the city didn’t make changes to the rule, council member Chuck Landon said.
Brent Corey, the lone council member who voted against the ban, said he opposed it at the time because of concerns about the potential for a lawsuit.
“I’m not surprised by the lawsuit, that is why I voted no,” he said. “I could see it coming by a mile away.”
When the ban was first proposed by Landon, city attorney Krista Taggart said the proposal was constitutional and that it could be successfully defended against a lawsuit.
When a lawsuit was threatened less than a month later, the council voted unanimously to give its first approval to reverse the ban rather than risk a defeat in court and legal expenses of $150,000 or more. The council met in a private executive session earlier this month to discuss the threatened lawsuit, Landon said.
Even if the city has determined that it can’t ban peddlers after all, city rules still allow residents to post a sign on their lawn or sticker on their door requesting that peddlers leave them alone. Landon has proposed mailing city-approved no-soliciting signs to every household in Greenwood.
The cost of printing the stickers would be a couple thousand dollars, the city is still looking into the best way to mail them to residents. One option would be to send them along with the monthly sewer bill, Landon said.
Taggart described the solution as a good compromise, saying the legal history in support of these types of signs strong.
An issue raised by the company is that one of the city’s main arguments for the peddler ban — that it was in the interest of public safety — isn’t backed up by police data as the city doesn’t experience enough crime to justify these restrictions on free speech, Landon said.
While the downside is that the city would have a harder time justifying than ban, it also shows that the police department is keeping the community safe, he said.