Confessions of a Business License Fee Scofflaw

Earlier this week, our friends at the Orange Juice raked me through the coals by painting me as operating a business in Santa Ana without holding a business license.  And, that’s true.  I didn’t have a license for my office in Santa Ana.  It was an office I kept and used sparingly. 

I guess I owe Sean Mill a note of thanks for bringing it to my attention because quite simply, it’s not something I’ve thought about very much. 

I’m pleased to report, that after several days and a few hours of phone tag with some patient Santa Ana city staffers, I’ve paid my past due business license fees to the City of Santa Ana in full and have come away with a new impression of the exceptionally bright and helpful people at Santa Ana City Hall.

And with that in mind, I’ll note my DBA and Irvine business licenses are coming up for renewal and I spent some time taking care of those items this morning as well.

When I moved into my neighbor’s building in Main Street in 2008, I did fill out a business license application and turned it into his office with my other forms.  For whatever reason, it was either never mailed or never received by the city.  They have no record of it and I didn’t have a copy with my lease documents.  I never got a business license from the city and didn’t really think much of it because I spent so little time in that office, but taking care of that was my responsibility and I didn’t do it. 

In two years I keep an office there, I have held three meetings there: one with Sean Mill while he blogged for us before we interviewed acting Sheriff Jack Anderson, one with OC Weekly writer Matt Coker just before the 2008 election cycle, and a staff meeting in ealry 2009 to train a new employee on new software — none of this billable time. 

The building was tagged by vandals several times.  The water bills went up dramatically once because someone filled up a tanker trunk which made the owner place a padlock on the outside water spigot and the clientele in the building changed dramatically with the economy, but my landlord is my neighbor and I stayed to help make sure he was able to make his mortgage payments and tax obligations. He’s one of my best friends.

When Sean contacted me about my lack of a Santa Ana business license, I had an “oh my”moment.  I didn’t have one and frankly, based on my usage of my office there, didn’t think I needed one.  I contacted my accountant; his advice, based on his understanding of the city’s license fees was, I didn’t need one (note to Sean who’s an aspiring investigative journalist with his political enemies — when making an inquiry it’s dumb to copy all of your competitors on the email not that any of them felt it was a newsworthy story).  I had to open some boxes in my storage facility to review some records.

In the two years I spent there, I was never once contacted by the city via email, mail or phone.  That said, I felt I needed to resolve my business license fees with the city and contacted their offices.  My accountant tells me I’m nuts to pay it.

So after a couple of days of phone tag with the city, I was sent a worksheet and an Excel file to input my data for gross receipts and costs associated with the Santa Ana office.  The form isn’t as simple as you might think.  I ballparked my obligation at several thousand dollars and was making arrangements to pay when the staffer assisting me immediately knew I had made a big mistake in my calculations.  He asked me a series of questions about my business, how I used the office, dates and dollars, and ran my numbers again.  The result: I owed a total of $304 which was paid in full this morning.  So I’m grateful for keeping good financial records and for admitting to city staff I needed help to correctly determine what I owed.  And I’m grateful for a staffer that really helped me and shared my desire to pay the correct amount.

So, to use Art Pedroza’s outrage, it’s now safe for me to drive on the streets, drink the water and flush a toilet in Santa Ana again. 

But while I’m pleased to have met my obligations with Santa Ana, the cost of business license fees for my business there were twice what I pay in Irvine.  And in Irvine, the form is very simple.  If the city of Santa Ana can arrive at a way to simplify the business licensing process for small business and adopt a calendar year approach to determining gross annual receipts, it would make it easier for everyone.

But one thing was painfully clear to me; Santa Ana city staff aren’t the incompentent boobs they are made out to be by Council members Tinajero and Martinez.  And as I shop around for that new office, I will likely keep it in Irvine because it’s a great place to work.  Just ask Sean Mill.

And here’s the difference between me and the boys at OJ.  I pay my bills.  My home isn’t in foreclosure, I don’t have any credit card fraud lawsuits against me, I’ve never filed bankruptcy, and I haven’t lost a home due to non-payment of HOA bills. 

So to get this straight, there’s intense outrage from Art Pedroza and Sean Mill over a $304 bill when their own financial obligations were in the tens of thousands of dollars range due to willful personal fiscal mismanagement?  And Pedroza is running for SAUSD — there’s a financial wizard who takes care of his financial obligations?  Again, thanks for the email o the license fees Sean.  Your city is $304 richer for it. I’m pleased to put this matter behind me and pleased to know the city has competent and helpful staff.

  7 comments for “Confessions of a Business License Fee Scofflaw

  1. junior
    September 16, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Congrats on clearing that up with the city Dan.

    $304.00 – that’s almost enough to buy Sal Tinajero’s vote.

  2. Dan Chmielewki
    September 16, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    very funny!

  3. Steve
    September 17, 2010 at 8:08 am

    The 9th Street Nimby’s? LOL

    Are those people who don’t want scofflaws in their backyards?

  4. Dan Chmielewski
    September 17, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Because I know he’s one of our best readers, allow me to call out Kenlaysnotdead for again cowardly hiding behind an alias to call us all sorts of bad names and admonish Matt Cunningham and me for working out of home offices while allowing Art Pedroza a free pass for doing exactly the same thing. And thanks for visiting my business web site Ken; I have your IP address now. Out yourself at anytime.

  5. Claudio Gallegos
    September 17, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    This is the same “Kenlaysnotdead” who claimed I did not see me participate in a volunteer opportunity at El Sol Academy in August that he did. The only volunteer opportunity that month, since they did NOT do the food bank was the school registration, which I was busy, REGISTERING MY CHILDREN FOR EL SOL. At least I know if the people on my emergency card start getting “home visits” like Harry Sidhu’s wife did, I know where they got the info from.

    Hey Ken Lay, if you actually do see me at El Sol, have the huevos to approach me. You can even do the “how’s it going buddy” act that Art and Sean put on in public.

  6. Ltpar
    September 17, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    An honest man, acknowledges mistakes and seeks to rectify them, rather than make excuses. Congratulations on your honesty.

    • Dan Chmielewski
      September 17, 2010 at 9:22 pm

      Thanks Pat; appreciated

Comments are closed.