Second Westerly vendor charged

Second Westerly vendor charged

The Westerly Sun

WESTERLY — A second Misquamicut businessman has been charged with violating the town’s ban on street vendors.

Kenneth J. “Nick” Adams, of 140 Atlantic Ave., Apt. 17, Westerly, was issued a summons Tuesday for selling items from an ice cream truck in the parking lot of his Ocean View Motel, where he also lives. Westerly Police Chief Edward St. Clair said police observed Adams selling items from the truck on July 11, 12 and 15.

George Manko, the owner of Hawaiian Desserts, was charged with violating the same ordinance on June 26 after he was observed by police selling shaved ice from his trailer at 308 Atlantic Ave.

Adams was defiant during an interview Wednesday, saying he planned to continue selling ice cream from his truck as he has since last summer.

“This is all political in nature, they’re trying to persecute certain people and, through selective enforcement, allow others to continue,” he said.

On May 19 the Town Council adopted changes to the town’s street vendor license. The new version of the law strictly limits the ability of many street vendors to operate in the town except during special events such as the Summer Pops concert and farmers markets. The ordinance does not apply to vendors who sell produce from farms.

“I feel what I’m doing is lawful and I feel we’ve been singled out on behalf of private interests and I would think that’s unlawful,” Adams said.

Specifically, Adams says, the new ordinance was aimed at him to stop competing with an ice cream shop in a neighboring building at 142 Atlantic Ave., which is owned by Umile Ritacco, the father of Robert Ritacco, chairman of the Westerly Democratic Town Committee.

“I believe it was Robert Ritacco that had Diana Serra put pressure on the police chief to revise and revise the ordinance year after year,” Adams said. Serra is the council president.

Serra accused Adams of “playing a game” and said his claims are “off base.” She said she supported the new ordinance because it was proposed by St. Clair and noted that a similar ordinance was proposed about four years ago by former Police Chief Edward Mello.

“I stand behind my record. I supported the ordinance brought to us by Chief Mello and I supported the ordinance brought to us by Chief St. Clair. I haven’t changed my position. There is nothing political going on and it has nothing to do with anyone I’m related to or friends with. It’s in the best interest of the town of Westerly,” Serra said.

The police chief said he proposed the new ordinance as a means to give the town and the department control over the proliferation of street vendors. He said the vendors sometimes blocked passage of sidewalks and caused motorists to suddenly pull off roadways, or pull back on, risking the safety of other drivers.

“When the police chief says its a public safety issue I listen. They know the law, they have the badge and I respect authority,” Serra said.

Before approving the new ordinance the council gave brief consideration to a proposed ordinance drafted by Solicitor John Stockwell Payne. That ordinance would have limited the number of street vendor licenses available in the town and delineated specific areas for vendors to work. Councilors rejected Payne’s proposal, saying it would expose the town to lawsuits, and St. Clair said he preferred his own proposal.

“I’m not afraid to make a decision that’s in the town’s best interest even when I know it is going to be controversial,” Serra said.

Last summer was the first time Adams sold ice cream at the motel but he operated a food cart on his property for about six years, he said. He said vending from the parking lot of the motel property is an important source of revenue and “an attraction for the people who visit the beach.” The new ordinance has caused a popular food trailer to be absent this summer, Adams said, after about four years.

“We’ve had literally hundreds of people leave the beach because of the ordinance and hundreds of my customers have asked about the food trailer,” Adams said.

Robert Ritacco rejected Adams’s claims and noted that a storefront across the street from the motel also sells ice cream. If Adams was willing to upgrade his property’s septic system he could sell ice cream from “his busted up looking motel,” Ritacco said.

“My parents and other Misquamicut business owners were able to rebuild their properties and make Misquamicut an attractive place for tourists to come to after storm Sandy. Mr. Adams should devote his time to that instead of attacking me and my family,” Ritacco said.

It is impossible, Ritacco said, for anyone, including himself, to manipulate members of the council, including non-Democrats, and two police chiefs.

He also defended Serra, noting that she and the rest of the council have routinely appointed Republicans to town board and commissions.

“It can’t be done. If you look at the facts and how it’s been and how the votes went down it speaks for itself,” Ritacco said.

The bottom line, Ritacco said, is that Adams ignored a town ordinance.

“Let’s not forget the real story — he got arrested for breaking the law — before we listen to him try to divert our attention or distract us,” Ritacco said.

Adams is scheduled to appear in Municipal Court on July 31.


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