Liberty Twp. sued over curfew for door-to-door solicitors

A Utah pest control company has sued Liberty Twp. over its rules for door-to-door soliciting.

Aptive Environmental LLC filed a lawsuit in federal court after Liberty Twp. trustees reaffirmed a 5 p.m. curfew in June on door-to-door soliciting.

The lawsuit focuses on a 2006 resolution that sets limits on selling wares and services door-to-door. Officials decided not to extend the hours permitted for solicitation in Liberty Twp. after residents expressed concerns about solicitors they say are ignoring rules and using aggressive tactics.

The company wants the township to remove the curfew and pay “hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages it has sustained as a result of this unconstitutional restraint on its free speech rights and the free speech rights of the citizens of Liberty that want and need its services,” the lawsuit reads.

The attorneys who filed the lawsuit indicated they called the township’s law director, asking for the curfew to be lifted, but to no avail.

“Ordinarily what we do is most of those cities don’t realize, they are not trying to act in an unconstitutional way, so we contact them, we point out the case law and generally the cities will work with us and amend their ordinance,” said Jeremy Fielding, an attorney with the Dallas, Texas, law firm that filed the lawsuit. “Occasionally we find we run into some resistance for a variety of reasons and we have to escalate and file a lawsuit … and that’s what we did here. It’s unfortunate. We didn’t want to do it.”

The pest control company said the curfew has caused them to lose a lot of business because they haven’t been able to reach potential customers.

After hearing from residents earlier this summer, trustees denied a resolution to extend hours for registered solicitors to 6 p.m. October through April and 9 p.m. the rest of the year.

Marlene Mundey, president of the Logsdon Ridge HOA, has lived in the township since 1993 and previously told the Journal-News she has never seen so many solicitors.

“They are aggressive, they are disrespectful, they are frightening, they are dishonest, they’ve tried to get into the homes of our residents,” she said. “And while our regulations say they have to cease and desist at 5 p.m., they are still banging on the doors and ringing the doorbells at 8:30 and 9:30 at night.”

She said the lawsuit is disappointing.

“We are disappointed to learn that a lawsuit against the township has been filed,” she told the Journal-News on Tuesday. “The safety, security, and welfare of our citizens should always be our first priority and should never be compromised by commercial groups who are only interested in their bottom line.”

The township’s law director, Scott Phillips, expressed concern last month that the township was violating First Amendment rights because he said soliciting is considered free speech.

Aptive says they need to maintain a personal relationship with their clients that requires face-to-face interaction. Phone calls, email campaigns and website advertisements don’t work, so they say so their business has been adversely effected by the curfew.

“Aptive’s sales are made almost exclusively through door-to-door solicitation. Moreover, its most successful hours of the day are between the hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. (dusk), when most residents are at home and available,” the lawsuit reads. “Accordingly, ordinances that impose end-of-the-day solicitation curfews have a direct and substantial impact on Aptive’s business. Aptive acquires a substantial majority of its new customers during its March to September sales season.”

Trustee Board President Tom Farrell said the trustees cannot discuss litigation. But Trustee Steve Schramm earlier this summer addressed the possibility of legal action while expressing support for maintaining the 5 p.m. curfew.

“I’d rather run the risk of getting sued than have our attorneys strike fear into our bones,” he said. “We have reacted like a poor little township for years and years and years, always worried about getting sued. So I think we kind of get our tail wagged by others. At some point we’ve got to stand up and this looked like a good opportunity for me to do it.”

Trustee Christine Matacic previously said the 2006 resolution was passed when many people selling magazines would be dropped off at neighborhoods and not picked up until after 10 p.m.

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