NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

August 28, 2013

Medeiros voted off liquor board

Selectman: He doesn't have 'temper or temperament' to remain in office

BY ANGELJEAN CHIARAMIDA
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALISBURY — Gilbert Medeiros is no longer a member of the Liquor Licensing Commission, after being removed from his appointed office yesterday by a majority vote of selectmen for what they said was his angry, threatening, disrespectful behavior toward them following a July vote — and his unwillingness to apologize for that behavior.

The 3-to-2 vote to remove Medeiros from the board stems from a selectmen’s meeting earlier this summer when they were presented with a measure related to bringing a slot machine parlor to Salisbury. When it was voted down, Medeiros berated Selectmen Don Beaulieu, Freeman Condon and Henry Richenburg for casting votes against it.

Immediately after the vote was taken and unrecognized by the chairman to speak, Medeiros repeatedly called the three selectmen “disgusting.” He rose, walked toward them and in a three-minute rant aimed at Beaulieu, Condon and Richenburg, waved his arms and pointed his finger at them, saying: “We should somehow get together and get you guys out of here,” ending with, “I’m going to put a petition to recall you guys.”

The behavior, broadcast on the town’s cable television channel, caused a stir throughout town. 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.

Section 7-8 allows the selectmen to remove individuals they appoint to office for a number of reasons including “conduct unbecoming his office,” as well as for insubordination. Selectmen Fred Knowles and Ed Hunt voted against taking that action.

Notified of the vote, Medeiros requested a public hearing on the measure. At the Aug. 20 hearing, his supporters urged selectmen to keep him on the commission, saying he wasn’t disrespectful or threatening, but merely “passionate.” Some argued that since Medeiros wasn’t representing the Liquor Licensing Commission at the time he spoke, he should not be disciplined.

However, as the selectmen said yesterday, Medeiros never issued an apology during the hearing. Even the compromise sought by his attorney failed, Richenburg said, because Medeiros refused to take the required step of apologizing for his behavior.

Condon characterized Medeiros’ behavior on July 1 as a “temper tantrum.” If he acted that way at a public meeting that was being televised, Condon worried about how he would act behind closed doors. Medeiros didn’t have “the temper or temperament” to remain in office, Condon said.

Beaulieu said free speech only goes so far, especially at public meetings, which require by law that speakers be recognized by the chairman before speaking. He added that if Medeiros calling selectmen “disgusting” didn’t qualify as disrespectful, he didn’t know what did.

According to Richenburg, Medeiros’ attorney tried to broker a deal that would allow his client to stay on the commission if he presented a written and public apology to the selectmen and agreed to a one-meeting suspension. Richenburg added the condition that Medeiros voluntarily give up his seat as chairman of the Liquor Licensing Commission for a year.

The discussion went back and forth for days, Richenburg said, until Medeiros walked away from the table. By refusing to apologize for “his angry not passionate” behavior, Richenburg said, Medeiros indicated that “he believed his behavior was 100 percent correct.”

Since Medeiros would not concede to the inappropriateness of his actions, Richenburg said he had to vote to remove him from the commission — a sentiment echoed by his fellow selectmen. Even though Selectman Ed Hunt voted against his removal, he also said he felt Medeiros should have apologized.

Hunt spoke in support of Medeiros, saying that because his comments on July 1 were made as a private citizen and not a commissioner, he shouldn’t be removed. As a commissioner, Medeiros ran a good meeting and earned the respect of his fellow board members, Hunt said. After polling the liquor license holders Medeiros oversees, Hunt said, most thought he did a good job, although a few felt he overstepped his bounds at times.

Knowles also offered his support to Medeiros and pointed to his constitutional right to free speech. Knowles added that, to remove Medeiros because of the disagreement, was sending the Board of Selectmen “down a very dangerous path.”

Medeiros did not attend yesterday’s meeting. He has refused to speak to The Daily News in the past.