Can state officials refuse to renew the operating license of a youth-wilderness program based solely on criminal charges pending against operators and staff?
That's the question attorney Stephanie Castro, who oversees the Administrative Hearings Office, will answer next week. Castro heard oral arguments Friday from the attorneys for the North Star Expeditions Inc. and the assistant attorney general representing the Office of Licensing in its decision to deny renewal.Last March 31, 16-year-old Aaron Bacon collapsed and died from peritonitis and a perforated ulcer while participating in the Escalante-based North Star program. Nine program employees, including co-owners Bill Henry and Lance Jagger, have been charged with abuse or neglect in the death.
Assistant Attorney General Carol Verdioa said Licensing has the authority to deny a license based on allegations of abuse.
But attorney David Sonnenreich said his client, North Star, should not lose a license because of an allegation or investigation.
Allowing that would "put people out of business and cause harm" whether there was a reason or not, he said.