Saturday, March 12, 2005

Business Licenses - Jump for Joy

I have to give a tip of the hat to Unrepentant Individual’s blog on
licensing. His article reminded me of a letter I sent to the Texas Private Security Board when Locksmiths became a licensed income generator for the State of Texas. I will include the letter that covers my reasons for jumping for joy each time I hear of yet another business that gets sucked in.

You have to believe that I am on the top of their list of favorite locksmiths after you read the letter I sent to them, the Houston Chronicle and to the ALOA.

Texas Private Security Board
An Open Letter as to How it Does and Does Not Work for or with Locksmiths
By: T. F. Stern ALOA # 8045

August 4, 2004

To One and All,

I will start off with the stated mission of the Agency which is the “protection of the public through fair and impartial regulation of the Private Investigations and Private Security Industry”. It goes further and states its job as Agency in the State of Texas for “ensuring citizens and consumers of investigations and security services, that these industries provide reliable services, employ qualified and trustworthy personnel, and are free from misrepresentation and fraud”. With a mission statement as broad as all that; who could complain that they don’t have everyone’s interests at heart? The last line in the Agencies mission statement is, “It is not the goal of the License Section to speed up or slow down the processing of applications, but to ensure the qualifications of all applicants prior to issue”.

Again I will quote directly from the Agencies cover page as it explains why it will be impossible, improbable at best, to accomplish any of the mission goals. “There is (are) an average of approximately 140,000 registered individuals in approximately 3,500 licensed companies in Texas and across the United States”. I have to wonder why the Texas Agency would include “across the United States” when all they are to work on live in Texas. “In addition to other areas of responsibility, the License Section receives about 8,000 individual applications and about 200 company applications per quarter. We renew approximately 3,500 individual and 875 company applications per quarter”. It then is quick to point out that “We are a staff of (6)”, to indicate that their work load is significantly higher than reasonable. Their work staff is in fact (5) because Larry Washington, one of their primary case workers, quit. A more accurate work level would be (4) when factoring in vacations and sick days. Then if you consider that one of those is the supervisor it brings the number of actual case workers down to (3).

I spoke with Ruby Griffin, another of the primary case workers, about how the Texas Private Security Board was handling the Licensing of Locksmiths. “I am not prepared to answer questions about Locksmiths. You will have to ask my supervisor, Mr. Cliff Grumbles”. I appreciated her honesty at not having the ability to answer my question and at the same time have subtracted yet another case worker who is qualified to investigate Locksmiths who are interested in complying with Section 1702.110 of the Texas Occupations Code, which was signed into law last year by the State Legislature and signed by Governor Perry, and goes into full effect on September 1, 2004. I had attempted to contact each of the two remaining case workers, Meredith McCall and Kevin Hernandez. Kevin was on vacation and Meredith was unavailable and I was instructed to leave a voice mail message. I did also contact Cliff Grumbles; more accurately, I left a voice mail message for him to call me.

Mr. Grumbles could not answer my specific questions when he did call back on June 30, 2004. He suggested that I write a letter giving very specific information about what I do as a mobile automotive locksmith and send it to him so that his legal staff could give me an accurate and definitive answer; translated into English, “I don’t know.”

I wrote out my letter and faxed it to Mr. Grumbles within the hour and also printed out the same letter on my company letterhead, placed it in a stamped envelope and sent it off with the afternoon mail. I have not heard back from Mr. Grumbles or his legal staff as of August 4, 2004. I have left voice mail on his answering machine and faxed him another copy of the original letter.

Here are some of my conclusions regarding the Texas Private Security Board. I would first indicate that they have no clue as to how or why locksmiths are applying for a license with their agency. They are not prepared to answer the simplest of questions and are unable to delineate between a car lock, a house lock or a corporate facility. How or why should I expect them to be qualified to issue a license that controls how I make a living? The fact that there are at best 5 working case workers, to include their supervisor, what could these folks possibly do as far as any investigative work on those applying? About the only time these case workers have is to open the multitude of envelopes that arrive daily, see if the money in that envelope adds up to the allocated fees, check off that name and deposit the money into the bank account for the State of Texas and go onto the next envelope.

The Texas Private Security Board; forgive me if I equate that to mean “The Alarm Service and Security Industry", has 5 people who are saddled with the responsibility to investigate all 8,000 individual application, the 875 company applications and on top of that they are to investigate any abuses by the entire group. If I calculate that properly, not being an accountant, that is approximately 9,000 applications per quarter, divided by the 5 case workers (to assume that the supervisor does any of the application case work ), or 3,000 applications per month; roughly 20 working days in a month. Each case worker would have 600 applications per month to thoroughly investigate and do background checks, fingerprint file checks with the State and the FBI, investigate history checks to verify truthfulness of each claimed training or business history and then count the money. This looks pretty much like any of the other State Agencies that fails to match up to its intended and stated purpose. If I did the math correctly each case worker is doing about 30 of these thorough and complete investigations each and every day. Did I mention that I want Santa Clause to bring me a Radio Racer Sled for when it snows here on Christmas Day?

If the State of Texas wants to know if I have claimed to be a locksmith it is a simple matter of checking with the folks at the State Sales Tax Agency to see if I reported any income. If the State of Texas wants to know if I have been arrested they can run the same check that the Department of Public Safety might run if I were stopped on the street for a traffic violation. If they want to know more they had better have just cause or they are trampling on my God given rights. The fact that I am in business to make money as a traveling auto mechanic who specializes in making keys is hardly “just cause” for investigating my abilities or my intentions. I have been a bonded locksmith and a member of the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) since 1978; also easily confirmed. My fingerprints are on file with the ALOA. My fingerprints are on file with the Houston Police Department as I am also a retired City of Houston Police Officer. My fingerprints are on file with the United States Government as I also served in the United States Army Reserves. The point being that one more set of fingerprints is not going to improve the safety for the citizens of the State of Texas; they will however add to my cost of doing business.

Here are some of the three “important” requirements that a locksmith must have on his/her resume prior to obtaining one of the license criteria:
1. three years of investigative experience or a bachelors degree in criminal justice for investigations company license.
2. two consecutive years of legally acceptable experience in the guard company business; and
3. successful completion of a two-hundred-question examination testing ability of the manager applicant to operated the guard company under the provisions of the statute regulating them.
I seem to recall reading about all three of these important aspects of LOCKSMITH work in the last issue of Keynotes or was it Locksmith Ledger?

It was more than a little “cloudy” when the Texas Department of Public Safety, Private Security Bureau form listed the necessary Company License Fees. From what I could determine; remembering that nobody at the Texas Private Security Board could figure out a reason for my even calling them, my company is subject to several fees. The first would be for a Class B Fee which costs $ 300.00 to start with. There are no qualifications listed for the title of Locksmith; only that it is listed under the category of Class B License Fees. This does not include an additional $ 50.00 to list myself as the owner, officer or shareholder of my “one horse” operation. It also asks that I pay for 2 “classifiable” fingerprint cards on Board issued FBI fingerprint cards at an additional cost of $ 25.00 for each. I must also complete a “verification of experience” form to qualify as a manager and a Level One Certificate form. This is all quite clearly printed on Form 027, just below where it states, “ ALL FEES MUST BE PAID BY CASHIER’S CHECK OR MONEY ORDER and ALL FEES SUBMITTED TO THE BOARD ARE NON-REFUNABLE NOR TRANSFERABLE”. These two lines bother my sense of right and wrong. I have been doing business with the State of Texas for more than a few years. I send them my State Sales Tax report along with a check, a check that is drawn from the business checking account at my bank. If there is an error, either in my favor or in the State’s favor, the amount of that error is quickly determined and I either write a check for that difference or I am refunded the overpayment. To insist that I go down to the local Stop and Go or similar institution to obtain a form of payment that is “guaranteed not to bounce” is demeaning at best and insulting at least.

I suppose that it is important that I go buy a German Shepherd, or a Labrador Retriever so that I can go about the business of making keys for cars now. Maybe the dog can carry my tool box and verify ownership of the tires based on traces of urine on the tires. I really have no idea since I lack the necessary training in my chosen field of endeavor. The important thing is now the State of Texas will have a chance to grab at least $ 400.00 out of my bank account just for the privilege of doing what I have for the past 25 years.
Then next year I will be permitted to continue, that is as long as I cough up my renewal fees, vault over this fence, balance myself on that wire and jump through a hoop while smiling and thanking the great State of Texas for their efforts to save the citizens from dishonest and fraudulent security individuals.

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