Bill Turlay, a candidate for Vancouver City Council who has campaigned on his business savvy, has been operating a company from his home without a city business license for 11 years.
City officials sent Turlay a letter Tuesday, notifying him that his business, Emerald City Granita & Beverage, lacks the required, annual $125 business license that all companies making more than $12,000 a year must obtain.
Turlay, who is running for Position 5 on the city council against Anne McEnerny-Ogle, said Friday that his lack of a city business license was an “honest mistake” and that he has now applied for a license. Turlay and McEnerny-Ogle ousted incumbent Pat Campbell from the general election race on Nov. 8, after they both won more votes than him in August’s top two primary.
He has had an active state business license for his beverage sales company since 1996. After he moved to Vancouver in 2000, he said he was under the impression that he did not need a city license.
“If you go back and read (the code), it is very confusing,” Turlay said. “I assumed because I’m working out of my home — there’s no signage, no commercial deliveries, no one coming in and out — I thought: ‘Oh, I’m exempt.’”
The city’s language about who does and does not need a license is too complicated, he said, adding it should be clarified so that other business owners don’t also run afoul of the law.
“The city should understand, a lot of people don’t know about it,” Turlay, 75, said. “It’s not willful neglect — it’s lack of knowledge.”
City Treasurer Carrie Lewellen said it’s uncommon in her experience for a business owner to have a valid state business license but not also file with the city.
“If you know the regulations around the state’s requirements, you would normally check the city licensing requirements,” she said.
Turlay’s campaign website touts more than 50 years of management and leadership experience.
In a recent interview, he said that McEnerny-Ogle, a retired teacher, lacks knowledge about small business.
“That is what I’m going to bring to the table,” Turlay said during the CVTV candidate interview. “If you look at the composition of our city council, we don’t have much business experience with that on the council. I’ve lived that life. I know what it’s like.”
The city is not seeking fines or any other punishment for Turlay’s failure to obtain a license, Lewellen said. When Turlay came in Friday to register his business, staff determined that he was exempt from also having to purchase a $116 Home Occupation Permit.
Turlay said that Vancouver should cross-reference its licenses with the state database and proactively inform anyone who may be out of compliance.
Still, he acknowledged he does shoulder the burden of making sure his regulatory ducks are in a row.
“If I miss something, it’s certainly my fault,” Turlay said. “It’s fixed, and we’ll press on from here.”