The Newberg City Council approved an ordinance last month to make the Newberg-Dundee Police Department the go-to authority for the state's liquor license regulators, rather than the council.
The police still will not have the final say on who does or does not get a liquor license as the police chief, or the chief's designee, will now be in charge of giving a recommendation to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Police had this responsibility not so long ago, but murky ordinances prompted staff to revert back to state rules giving the council the authority.
"It really was working well for the police department to have that initial review because they're the ones most often who would deal with these problems," said City Attorney Truman Stone.
The City Council held a short public hearing on the change Feb. 21, and after no one spoke on the issue except Stone, they approved the ordinance 5-0. Councilor Patrick Johnson abstained from discussing and voting due to his role with the Oregon Lottery and Councilor Denise Bacon was not present on an excused absence.
Stone explained that state law does give this authority to city councils, but he noticed when he first started working in Newberg that the police were still taking care of it — and there was no clear legislative history showing how this came to be a responsibility of the police.
"I asked them basically how it got to the police department to handle these, and their answer was that they really didn't know, they had just been doing this for some time," he said.
He added this role was returned to the council over a year ago and the revised ordinance would give this responsibility back to the police, but now clearly delineating the authority for the police to resume this as well as clear rules for the process.
"It's my recommendation that we actually codify this, again for transparency, so that the public can see this, so that applicants can understand what the process is, what the criteria is," Stone said.
While police will now be in charge of the recommendation, the new ordinance allows for an applicant to appeal the police decision to the council for review.