Perseverance – the character trait promoted in the month Mayor Raeanne Presley tried to initiate open discussion regarding the city’s controversial and unpopular name protection policy. City Administrator Terry Dody advised council to refrain from discussion until attorney Joe Johnson of the Lathrop and Gage law firm could brief aldermen on possible repercussions of discontinuing the policy. After a closed door session with Johnson, alderman voted unanimously to discontinue issuing letters to businesses who use the term "Branson" outside of the geographical confines of the city.
Seven businesses outside of the city limits were sent letters advising them to contact the city for "permission" to use the Branson name. Aldermen passed the controversial ordinance 5-1 in the fall of 2006, instructing the city attorney to begin sending letters to businesses outside the city limits using the Branson name. The first business to receive such correspondence was the Branson Sports Club. Owners Larry and Pam Dapprich responded with protests in front of city hall, extensive press correspondence and a video parody.
Pam Dapprich made appearances at city meetings for nearly nine months demanding an apology for the litigious posture flexed by city officials after receiving her letter in September 2006. In April Alderman Stephen Marshall asked Dapprich what she would do if rendered an apology. Two weeks later Dapprich responded, "…assist area youth,” the Branson Sports Club’s mission.
Concern over the issue peaked when Johnson addressed city leadership in a public meeting last November. Fourteen Branson residents including county officials, business leaders and concerned citizens voiced opposition in the meeting that extended past the midnight hour. Tuesday’s meeting drew comments from five area residents.
Western Taney County Commissioner Ron Herschend said, "the county has been dealing with this issue as well, we have businesses concerned about their livelihood." Former alderman Ron Huff defended the position he took as a city leader stating, "Legal counsel strongly recommended that we initiate a program in case we want to challenge it in the future. We proceeded, we voted on it."
Comments made by aldermen created a window to the closed door session with Lathrop and Gage earlier this month. Aldermen confirmed outspending legal opponents was an element of the Lathrop and Gage strategy and granting permission to businesses wishing to use the name Branson provided only a small legal foothold.
Alderman Jack Purvis commented on the recent meeting with Johnson stating, "It seemed like we were talking about two different issues. The attorney who was supposedly a well informed person on this issue told us we didn’t have a stand."
Alderman Stan Barker reiterated the importance of protecting the value of the Branson name and reaffirmed the city’s initial intent was to protect the "Branson" brand from businesses that had no interest in promoting community values.
Alderman Dick Gass spoke to his understanding of legal advice first issued in no uncertain terms saying, "The attorney told us if you want to protect the name, this is what you have to do."
Presley closed the discussion stating," It’s hard for me to know what I would do if I was sitting in your shoes when the attorney said the things he said…versus now given more information… I could not find any evidence of malicious intent... They made their decision based on the information they had at the time. "