Cazenovia Village Board split on underage drinking law

While most attending a Monday Feb.1 public hearing to discuss the proposed Social Host local law seemed to support the intent of the law, both village of Cazenovia trustees and community members were split on how it should be applied.

While some said that the law requires leadership at the village level, others believed it should come from the town, county or state level.

"The goal of the Social Host law, which is just a violation, is to give local law enforcement sort of a middle ground between doing nothing and going for criminal prosecution. Which makes it more likely that, as appropriate, something will be done instead of nothing," said Deputy Mayor Kurt Wheeler.

Wheeler said the current law offers no middle ground.

"If law enforcement becomes aware of a violation of existing state laws, they're in a situation where they have to go to the D.A., seek prosecution of a criminal offense, which results, potentially, in jail time," he said. "And they have to decide between doing nothing -- essentially a warning -- or going all the way and seeking criminal prosecution."

Wheeler encouraged those in attendance to read the law for themselves.

Village Trustee Richard Huftalen addressed concerns that the law shouldn't be enacted at the village level, and should instead come from the county or state level. He also addressed comments that other area boards haven't adopted the measure.

"The fact that some other entity isn't ready to endorse this isn't a valid reason for me to say I won't endorse it," Huftalen said. "Acting in good faith as a member of this board, I've got to say, 'what are the reasons they won't adopt it?' and then make my decision based on those reasons."

Huftalen said that consideration of the local law is part of an important conversation that has to take place at a local level.

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