NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

August 1, 2013

Hearing set to oust embattled official

BY ANGELJEAN CHIARAMIDA
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALISBURY — At 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 6, embattled Liquor Licensing commissioner Gilbert Medeiros will have the public hearing he requested to defend the actions that have the majority of selectmen planning to remove him from office.

Selectmen voted 3-2 on July 22 to send notification to Medeiros that they intend to remove him from his seat on the town’s Liquor Licensing Commission, where he is the chairman. The action came after the July 1 meeting when Medeiros verbally lambasted Selectmen Donald Beaulieu, Freeman Condon and Henry Richenburg because they voted against a slot casino, which killed the venture in town. Selectmen Ed Hunt and Fred Knowles voted in favor of the venture.

In favor of the gambling proposal, Medeiros stood and berated the three selectmen at the meeting for more than three minutes. He repeatedly called them “disgusting,” and threatened to start petitions to recall them because they refused to meet a 17-day deadline to negotiate a contract with Maryland casino developer Cordish Companies.

The 3-2 vote against the casino split the same way as the vote to remove Medeiros — Beaulieu, Condon and Richenburg to remove him and Hunt and Knowles opposed.

The process of removing an appointed town official from office is outlined in Salisbury’s Home Rule Charter. The authority to remove him from office is granted to the selectmen in Section 7-8, since they are the authority that appoints members of the Liquor Licensing Commission.

At the July 22 meeting, Medeiros wasn’t contrite but instead called the selectmen “bullies” because of their action.

As is required by the charter, on Wednesday, July 24, a formal written notice signed by Richenburg, the board chairman, notified Medeiros of the selectmen’s intent to remove him. Hand-delivered by a member of the Salisbury Police Department and in accordance with the charter, the letter informed Medeiros of his right to request a public hearing, an option he exercised in a July 27 letter.

In his letter, Medeiros asked for a number of things, including access to the town’s attorney to help him mount his defense against removal. He also requested copies of all the materials he’d received to carry out his duties as a commissioner.

Yesterday, Medeiros got his reply in a letter from Richenburg, again hand-delivered by a Salisbury police officer. Richenburg notified Medeiros of the date of the hearing, adding access to town counsel would not be coming.

“In accordance with the Charter, you ‘may be represented by counsel, ... be entitled to present evidence, call witnesses and question any witnesses appearing at the hearing,’” Richenburg wrote, quoting the charter. “You will not be represented by Town Counsel, but may engage the services of your own private attorney, at your own expense.”

Richenburg also informed Medeiros the materials he had received when he assumed his position on the Liquor Licensing Commission to assist him in carrying out his duties would be sent under separate cover by Town Clerk Wilma McDonald.

According to Assistant Town Clerk Mindy Morrison, when all town officials are sworn into office, they’re given a copy of the state’s Open Meeting Law Guidebook, as well as the state’s handbook on its conflict of interest regulations. Officials sign to indicate they’ve received the materials. A copy of Medeiros’ signature to that effect is on file at the town clerk’s office.

Selectmen have 10 days after the hearing to make a final decision on removal or suspension, according to the charter, and if deadlines aren’t met, the individual involved is automatically reinstated.