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Citing problem with city ordinances, board of public safety relunctantly approves massage parlor licenses

Friday, August 8, 2014 - 7:58 am

Fort Wayne Police came into the city Board of Public Safety meeting Thursday asking to close two massage parlors. They left with the board on their side, but with members feeling they had no choice but to approve the parlors' licenses because of current city ordinances.

"I know you are spinning your wheels in your department, and it is unfortunate," board member Frank Casagrande told two officers representing Fort Wayne Police — Assistant Chief Steve Reed and Capt. Kevin Hunter of the Vice and Narcotics Division.

The problem is that current city ordinance treats licensing of massage parlors separately from licensing of the masseuses they employ. So the board of public safety cannot factor the wrongdoing of one into the license approval or denial of the other.

For example, Hunter mentioned an employee of one local parlor had pleaded guilty to a charge of prostitution. But safety board members couldn't consider that when deciding whether to approve the parlor's license because the current ordinance doesn't make the parlor responsible for the actions of its employees.

Board members also learned it recently became even easier for foreign-born immigrants to get the Indiana identification needed to complete requirements to get a masseuse license in Fort Wayne.

Effective July 30, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles began offering its automated Operator Knowledge Tests in 11 foreign languages. Those languages are Arabic, German, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Burmese, Japanese, Punjabi, Vietnamese, Chin, Korean and Russian.

Earlier in July, Fort Wayne Board of Public Safety members had voted to deny licenses requested by five masseuses because most didn't have an Indiana identification card or legal proof of residence. Board members had to approve three of those license applications Thursday because all had filed the proper paperwork. They also had to approve the license applications of massage parlors Q Spa and Asian Health Care Center because they also had filed all necessary paperwork.

This is the first time the board of safety has faced this ordinance dilemma, in part because more people are seeking licenses to open massage parlors and to work as masseuses, Casagrande and fellow board member Tim Davie said after the meeting.

Fort Wayne Police will work to get City Council to revise ordinances governing massage parlor and masseuse licensing while also investigating all complaints of inappropriate behavior at local massage parlors, Reed said after the meeting.

In other business, the board:

•Approved the promotion of Officer Gary Hensler to the rank of sergeant. Hensler will be sworn in at his new rank Aug. 18. He fills the vacancy created by the retirement Aug. 5 of Sgt. Bill Walsh, a 55-year veteran of the force.

•Learned three city police officers served suspensions in July: Officer Craig E. Dennis, for reporting late for duty; Lt. James D. Ritchie for violating department policy on use of social media; and Officer Scott Studebaker for lack of alertness on duty. Details were unavailable on the number of hours each was suspended and specifics of what prompted the suspensions.