, Newburyport, MA

July 13, 2013

Selectmen consider removal of official

Recall of board members also investigated


---- — SALISBURY — The town is simmering with a variety of threats that could remove both elected and appointed officials from office.

The first challenge came on July 1, when resident and Salisbury Liquor Licensing Commission Chairman Gil Mederios said he’d start a petition to recall selectmen Don Beaulieu, Freeman Condon and Henry Richenburg because their votes put an end to a proposal to build a 190,000 slot casino/garage complex on Route 110. Mederios, a proponent of the slots-only casino, announced his intention after taking the three men to task following the board’s 3 to 2 vote against negotiating a hosting agreement with the Cordish Companies, a Maryland casino developer.

Although selectmen Ed Hunt and Fred Knowles voted to give negotiations a try, Cordish lost its bet in Salisbury basically due to timing concerns. Beaulieu, Condon and Richenburg felt the 17-day deadline to execute a contract with Cordish wasn’t enough time to hammer out a deal that would protected Salisbury from the impacts gambling would bring, especially traffic.

Mederios stood after the vote, complaining the three selectmen’s decision was “disgusting.” Mederios berated the men for not trying to work out a casino agreement with Cordish, so residents could vote the contract up or down at the required local referendum.

According to Town Clerk Wilma McDonald, Mederios visited her office twice since the meeting to investigate Salisbury Home Rule Charter’s complex process for recalling elected officials. Mederios refused to tell the Daily News if he’s going forward with a recall, saying he didn’t like the way the paper reported the casino story.

Then, at a special Board of Selectmen meeting held this week, the board decided it would meet again on Monday, July 22 at 5:30 p.m. At the special meeting the only agenda item will be to consider taking action under Section 7-8 of the town charter to remove or suspend an appointed town official.

Although all selectmen agreed to session, it was Beaulieu who requested Richenburg, the board chairman, call the special meeting. Beaulieu refused to give a name of the person or persons involved, saying once announced it “started the clock running,” on the removal procedure in the charter.

According to Section 7-8 of the charter, any appointed officer may be suspended or removed by the appointing authority for “good cause.” The term ‘cause” can include, but not be limited to: “incapacity other than temporary illness, inefficiency, insubordination, and conduct unbecoming to the office.”

The procedure to remove an appointed officer requires a written notice be delivered to the individual in question, according to the charter, and within five days following the delivery of the notice, the individual may request a public hearing. At the hearing, witnesses can be heard and the person involved may bring legal counsel.

If a public hearing is requested, the appointing body has one to 10 days after the hearing to make its final decision on removal or suspension. If a hearing is not requested, the appointing body has six to 15 days to act. If deadlines aren’t met, the individual involved is automatically reinstated.

According to the charter, the Board of Selectmen appoint individuals to serve on the following town entities: library board of trustees, Historical Commission, Registrars of Voters, Cultural Council, Housing Authority, Planning Board, Harbor Commission, rent control board, Council on Aging, Affordable Housing Trust and the Liquor Licensing Commission.

And as Salisbury deals with the aftermath of the gambling question, Cordish has moved on to another community. By July 8, Cordish was in Leominster to see if its City Council was willing to listen to a proposal for a slot parlor on Route 117, near Interstate 190.