Judge Blocks Goldberg's Hearing On CCC Chairwoman O'Brien

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BOSTON (State House News Service) — A Superior Court judge has allowed suspended Cannabis Control Commission Chairwoman Shannon O'Brien's request to block Treasurer Deborah Goldberg from holding a Tuesday afternoon meeting that could lead to O'Brien's firing.

The meeting was scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Treasury offices on the 12th floor of One Ashburton Place.

O'Brien's attorney, Max Stern, said during a hearing on the motion Monday that the suspended chairwoman's side is not prepared for the meeting and objects to some of the ground rules Goldberg has set for it -- particularly that it's private, that O'Brien can offer witness testimony but is given no way to compel witnesses to testify, and that Goldberg would ultimately be the "finder of facts" and decider.

Goldberg suspended O'Brien from the position of CCC chair in mid-September. O'Brien responded about two weeks later with a lawsuit charging that "Treasurer Goldberg removed Chair O'Brien without notice, without articulated reason, and without any opportunity to be heard, all of which is required by the clear and unambiguous provisions of Massachusetts law ... as well as basic norms of due process."

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Goldberg's office argued Monday that it is in the public's interest that the meeting take place since the taxpayers are paying O'Brien's salary while she is suspended.

"The Treasurer takes these allegations very seriously, which is why she wants to provide Chair O’Brien with the opportunity to address them without further delay, and with a fair process that provides an opportunity for her to do that. In October, Chair O’Brien was so adamant about having this meeting that she went to court to demand it. Now, despite knowing about the allegations since September, she is asking to delay the meeting again," Andrew Napolitano, Goldberg's communications director, said Monday. "It is in the best interest of the taxpayers and the CCC that this meeting proceed."

When she suspended O'Brien from the position of CCC chair in September, Goldberg issued a statement saying she did so based on "[s]everal serious allegations" that were made by an unnamed commissioner and CCC staff about O'Brien's behavior.

In an Oct. 4 letter that O'Brien included as an exhibit to her latest court filings, Goldberg told O'Brien that an investigator brought in by the CCC "concluded that you made 'racially, ethnically, culturally insensitive statements,' including 'public statements that could reasonably be perceived as creating the impression that ... diverse candidates were not qualified for the CCC Chair role.' As just one example, in response to the allegation that in a meeting in the fall of 2022 you remarked, in reference to a person of Asian heritage, 'I guess you’re not allowed to say 'yellow' anymore," you did not deny doing so."

Written by Colin A. Young/SHNS

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