GN – Former License Commision member Atty. Ray Weicker released this letter to the press and has given Ted Panos of WCAP permission to share it with myself and the Blog readers. Please read his footnote at the end which I BOLDED because it appears that IF Mr. Bayliss doesn’t get 6 Council Votes to stay according to Mr. Weicker, the Charter says he has no legal right of appeal (Ted should have shared this with his News Anchor today)
Here it is:
It is with a sense of both relief and regret that I have tendered my resignation, as requested by Manager Bernard F. Lynch. I feel that at this point in time, with only 7 months left on my appointment, our respective approaches, investment in and commitment to the City of Lowell are too divergent and incompatible.
In more than 5 years, the City Manager never picked up the phone to express displeasure with any ruling or action, and since I served at the pleasure of the manager (1) and could have been suspended without notice at any time, I could only assume that that both I and the Commission were acting in accordance with his overall vision. I was surprised to receive several telephone calls from the newspaper on Friday seeking comment on a call for my resignation nearly two hours before I received a request from the Manager.
When I accepted an appointment to the License Commission in 2007, I was assured that the body would be allowed to operate as a non-partisan, independent, quasi-judicial body charged with conducting full and fair hearings.
I was appointed to the License Commission based on my background in law and law enforcement. My father was a retired military police officer (Sergeant First Class) who was recalled from retirement, and my background included time as a federal prosecutor and special assistant U.S. Attorney.
At some point, the independent License Commission was moved under the city’s Law Department and made subordinate so that prosecutor and judges in any hearing would both be working for and answering to the same person, and as a result, during my more than 5 years on the Commission, we presided over more hearings resulting in more license revocations, license suspensions, license modifications (roll back of hours) and other penalties, than any other Commission in the history of the City. Numerous matter for which there was no probable cause to arrest or insufficient evidence to bring a criminal charge to the District Attorney were brought before the License Commission for administrative discipline where a lower standard of proof applied.
Despite the apparent conflict, the Commission strove to and obeyed both the letter of the law and the guidance provided by the Alcohol Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) and practiced and applied the required “progressive discipline” model which is upheld statewide. We sought to distinguish between responsibility for individual actors and businesses and apportion blame accordingly. My fellow Commissioners and I spent countless hours reviewing the written decisions issued every month and did our absolute best to apply the law in a fair and consistent manner that did not accept or condone local politics as a reason to act against one establishment and not against another. In more than five years, not a single one of my decisions was overturned or criticized in any way by the ABCC or the Courts; in fact, we were referred to as a model licensing authority. We understood that the test of due process was making the system work equally well for the popular and unpopular alike.
The License Commission on which I was proud to serve never subscribed to a theory of group punishment, and we repeatedly promised that we would never hold it against a licensed establishment if they called the police for a problem; we knew that the greater public good was served by calling police, fire or ambulance services to a disturbance because we wanted individuals punished for their actions and people who were injured to receive medical treatment. In all of my years, the case that infuriated me the most was where I saw an establishment toss a woman out into the street after she had been assaulted and was left bleeding; that establishment then let the attacker out the back door.
While some may have criticized our decisions, others approved. Some felt the Commission was too harsh in revoking licenses where it found a pattern of misconduct by the owners of the establishment. Other felt the License Commission should have permanently closed down businesses and forfeited million dollar investments for minor, first time infractions. Bars, restaurants and clubs are a business everybody loves, and that everybody loves to criticize, but that few if any of the critics would invest their life savings in and try to open and run an establishment.
It is my sincerest hope that my replacement Commissioner is an independent thinker who takes the time to conduct their own research rather than rely solely on the law department. I hope that my replacement will understand that their job is not to be either a rubber stamp for one or an appeaser for another. It is my hope that if asked to choose between what is right and what is popular, they will not be cowed by the threat of being replaced.
I am proud to have served on the Lowell License Commission but prouder still to have resigned. I consider it an honor and a privilege to have served with my fellow Commissioners and I thank Mr. Lynch for having given me the opportunity to do so.
Raymond T. Weicker III
1) The Lowell City Charter specifically strips the License Commission of the protections afforded by Massachusetts General Laws chapter 138, section 5 (allowing for judicial review of any decision to remove a Commissioner) and specifically provides that the Manager may terminate for cause which in his judgment he may deem sufficient.