HANSON — In a meeting featuring several legal issues — and lawyers — Hanson Selectmen on Tuesday, June 18 announced a mutual agreement between the board and Town Administrator Michael McCue to dissolve his employment contract.
Selectmen also reviewed and approved licensure rules and regulations for marijuana cultivation firms as well as the board’s role in the process of permitting such facilities — and announced findings of an ethics complaint by former labor counsel Leo Peloquin against two selectmen during the process that led to the board hiring a new law firm.
Selectman Kenny Mitchell read from a prepared statement concerning McCue after an hour-long executive session opened the meeting, which began an hour early for that purpose. In that session, Selectmen also conducted contract negotiations with interim Town Administrator Meredith Marini as well as one regarding the Hanson Police Relief Association.
“The Town Administrator had a four-year employment agreement that was set to run until 2022,” said labor counsel Jamie Kenny of Clifford & Kenny in Pembroke. “Tonight, the board has approved a separation agreement, which allows those contractual obligations to fall away and the agreement now between us is a separation agreement, which will end [the] employment relationship on July 1.”
She explained that these types of agreements have a seven-day revocation agreement before it becomes completely binding and effective. It is not a public document until that time.
“My understanding is, at that time, the board will release that as a public document along with a town statement,” Kenny said.
Selectmen Chairman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett made a statement on behalf of the board.
“This board is committed to complete transparency in all matters to the extent permitted by law, that being said, in compliance with state law, it is the policy of the town not to comment on confidential personnel matters and/or ongoing investigations into personnel matters,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “Because of these constrictions, we have not commented on any action with respect to the town administrator. Mr. McCue had an employment agreement with the town. There were three years left on the existing agreement. At this point, we have a tentative mutual agreement to separate Mr. McCue from employment, effective July 1, 2019.”
She said that once the seven-day revocation window expires, the board will release the agreement as a public document.
“The board looks forward to moving quickly to finding a new town administrator and to beginning the next chapter for the town,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said.
The board then voted to enter into an interim town administrator contract with Marini. Both votes were unanimous.
Town Counsel Katherine Feodoroff then discussed with Selectmen the issues surrounding the board’s role in licensure of marijuana cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities.
Questions about that role have surfaced during community meetings held by owners of a cannabis grow facility planned for the Hanson Industrial Park on Commercial Way in compliance with the process of in negotiating the host community agreement (HCA) required by the state’s Cannabis Control Commission.
“I’ve asked out counsel to attend tonight’s meeting to clarify the Selectmen’s role and responsibilities with respect to the licensing of a proposed marijuana cultivation facility in Hanson,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “This discussion is the first discussion we have had as a board regarding the proposed cultivation facility since learning about their attempt to locate here.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett cautioned those attending the Selectmen’s meeting that, after the board’s questions were addressed that, while the audience would have the opportunity to ask questions, “We will only entertain questions that relate to the topics we have proposed in our meeting agenda.”
“While I realize that people may feel strongly for and against the legalization of marijuana and recreational use of marijuana, that falls outside the scope of our discussion tonight,” she said. “It is something that has been decided at a state level. … We will have future discussions, which we will open up to the public and that will be more detailed about things you may be interested in that we are not discussing tonight.”
Feodoroff outlined the licensing structure of the town’s general by-law, which has similar licensing authority as by-laws regulating alcohol licenses, which are renewable annually.
She also presented a draft application for the process, which Selectmen voted 5-0 to adopt.
The board also has the authority to negotiate HCAs with any marijuana establishment trying to site in Hanson.
“Because there is a [town] prohibition of retailers, this just applies to your cultivators, the manufacturers — the folks that convert the marijuana flower to products — and the testing facilities,” Feodoroff said.
The regulations also define types of facilities included in and allowed by the license procedure. Police inspection, prompted by resident complaints, would be permitted.
When a facility is licensed, the regulations must be kept on-site with employees required to read, understand and abide by the posted regulations as well as attesting they have done so. Admission to the facilities would be strictly limited for members of the public and the town can establish hours of operation, including closure for inventory or other reasons — which the Selectmen must be advised about for security concerns. Without an HCA, a marijuana facility is not permitted to open.
Changes to the premises — as well as any change of ownership or license transfer — would have to be approved by the Board of Selectmen.
“Violations of local or state law, violations of other [governing] bodies’ regulations — like the Board of Health — violations of the Host Community Agreement, fraud, all these kinds of things could bring an entity that’s operating in town back before the Board of Selectmen to have a discussion,” Feodoroff said.
FitzGerald-Kemmett asked about the steps and timeline involved.
Feodoroff said an application of intent must be filed with the CCC. A provisional license can be issued following a community outreach meeting and a signed certified document stating a HCA has been reached with the town.
“They haven’t gotten there, yet,” Feodoroff said of the current applicants Ralph Greenberg and his daughter Alli of Randolph, whose company is called Impressed LLC.
FitzGerald-Kemmett also asked if language requiring most efficient use of water or restricting use of agricultural chemicals can be included in the HCA. Feodoroff said some towns include those regulations in the special permit-granting process, but she said concerns about water use could be points of negotiations in an HCA. Odor control concerns can also be raised.
“For cultivators, odor control and smell are the big issues that special permit authorities tackle,” Feodoroff said. “That requires a whole host of documents which will have engineering relative to what their HVAC system’s going to look like.”
Selectman Matt Dyer asked what responsibilities the town had for the proper posting of the community outreach meetings.
Feodoroff said that is not the Selectmen’s responsibility at all.
“You can facilitate the process, because you obviously know this is an important issue to your constituents … but it’s not your obligation,” she said. “They [the applicants] won’t get through the CCC unless they properly host in accordance with the CCC regulations.”
“We’ve gotten potentially different feedback on that, so it’s good to know,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “It’s not an approval process.”
She said the meetings were intended to offer residents an opportunity to make their concerns known. The Greenbergs will be hosting two more outreach meetings, at the Hanson Library on Thursday, June 27 and in the Selectmen’s meeting room at Town Hall Tuesday, July 2.
Two have been already held, but posting issues with the first have led the applicants to decide not to submit it to the CCC, according to Feodoroff.
A resident asked if, since retail facilities can be limited to 20 percent of the number of alcohol-sales establishments in a town, are there similar restrictions for cultivators, manufacturers or testing facilities.