NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

August 31, 2013

After ouster, Medeiros may sue town

BY ANGELJEAN CHIARAMIDA
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALISBURY — Former Liquor License Commission Chairman Gilbert Medeiros is considering legal action against the town after selectmen removed him from his position for unprofessional behavior.

On Monday night, selectmen voted Medeiros off the commission by a 3-to-2 vote, putting what they thought was an end to a nearly two month ordeal. The board’s actions stem from Medeiros’ behavior at selectmen’s July 1 meeting, when they voted down a measure related to bringing a slot machine parlor to Salisbury.

At the meeting, Medeiros angrily berated Selectmen Don Beaulieu, Freeman Condon and Henry Richenburg for voting against trying to bring gambling to town, repeatedly called them “disgusting,” and saying, “We should somehow get together and get you guys out of here.” He ended with, “I’m going to put a petition to recall you guys.”

His behavior, broadcast on the town’s cable television channel, caused such a stir that on July 22, Beaulieu, Condon and Richenburg voted under provisions in Section 7-8 of the Salisbury’s Home Rule Town Charter to notify Medeiros of their intent to remove him from office. At Medeiros’ request a public hearing took place on Aug. 20, when nine residents spoke up for him, hoping to sway the board against removing Medeiros.

However, citing his refusal to apologize for his conduct, on Monday night Beaulieu, Condon and Richenburg voted to remove him from the office to which the board had appointed him. Selectmen Ed Hunt and Fred Knowles were the two who voted to keep Medeiros, as they had been the two votes in favor of the slot parlor.

Yesterday, Medeiros’ attorney, Anthony Papoulias, Jr., said there could be more fallout because of the selectmen’s actions against his client.

“Mr. Medeiros and I are discussing our legal options in light of two (American Civil Liberties Union) decisions on two cases,” Papoulias said. “Those cases are Waasdorp versus the town of Falmouth (Mass.), and Schuler versus the town of Shirley (Mass.).”

Papoulias added, that “It’s the principle of the issue,” that has Medeiros contemplating a legal battle.

Accorded to the published reports, those cases involved actions taken by boards of selectmen against two appointed town officials that were either removed or virtually removed from their offices. The ACLU took both cases and filed lawsuits against selectmen. Although neither went to court, the lawsuits led to cash settlements of $35,000 in each case, and selectmen allowing both individuals to remain in office.

According to published reports, in the 2012 case of Peter Waasdorp versus Falmouth, selectmen removed him from his seat on the Conservation Commission due to a harassment complaint made by the commission’s chairwoman. She told selectmen Waasdorp sent her more than 40 “offensive” emails over a two-week period in relation to a vote on a 20-year lease of town cranberry bogs.

In Shirley, selectmen took out a “no trespass order,” against Finance Committee member Robert Schuler, virtually preventing him from taking part in future meetings. The action came after a May 2011 Finance Committee, when Schuler expressed his frustration concerning the way selectmen were handling a pending budget deadline. According to published reports, Schuler said the board’s slowness in acting made him want to “pull my gun out and start shooting or something.”

Called for comment, Town Manager Neil Harrington said he’s left to wonder why Medeiros is fighting “to be reinstated to a position to which a majority of the Board (of Selectmen) believe he is unqualified to serve, due to his actions.”

The position on the Liquor License Commission, a board of seven people appointed by selectmen, oversees the distribution of the town’s limited supply of licenses to serve beer, wine and liquor, on a seasonal and year round basis. Commissioners also supervise licensees, sometimes visiting establishments that sell alcohol to the public to ensure they’re following the rules. When infractions of the state’s regulations are found, either by commissioners or those from other agencies, commissioners hold hearings and can discipline license holders, either through suspension or revocation of licenses.

The only formal payment commissioners have received in the past is a small stipend to cover expenses they incur during the times they are assigned inspection detail.

No compensation goes to any of the officials who are appointed to town boards, committees or commissions in Salisbury, Harrington said. Only elected officials, such as selectmen and the town moderator, receive small stipends for their work, he said.

Medeiros formerly worked at the office of the Essex County Sheriff. Medeiros resigned his position with the Sheriff’s office a few years ago, according to Sheriff Frank Cousins, and filed a workers’ compensation claim that the state is still administrating.