My Record on the Licensing Board Speaks for Itself

By Ken Umemba

I write to refute the recent incendiary remarks that Councillor Roy Avellaneda recently espouses to defame and undermine the stellar record of the Chelsea Licensing Board and myself as a member. We do not have to search far to realize the progress the board has made in the past few years.

A check of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) – decision’s website indicates how we have performed over these years. The Licensing Board literally made fewer trips to ABCC in Boston to appeal cases, than any other urban city in the Commonwealth.

The board has demonstrated extreme patience and restraint in making fair and balanced decisions. This explains the board’s infrequent trips to ABCC, and highlights the reasons that establishments and regular citizens, who follow board proceedings; believe in their rulings.

Avellaneda served along with myself and others for over six years on the Commission, and he never ever made his disaffection known to anyone. He participated in his last meeting barely two months ago. No sooner than he leaves his colleagues on the Licensing Board and his voting records behind, he seems to have developed amnesia, as he ascends to his new throne at the City Council Chamber and calls for the heads of his former fellow commissioners to roll.

Avellaneda lamented openly in the Chelsea Record that he was disappointed.

Despite the concerns that he raised against me by name that “the councilors decided to vote more on feelings…over actual things that happen at the meetings,” he fails flatly here to realize that those councillors aren’t easily cowed or influenced. They are independent-minded and saw through the fog of his innuendos to reject his concerted effort to tarnish a stellar record.

He championed impactful decisions at the Licensing Commission. Two decisions in particular, Las Palmas and Plaza Mexico, I need mention here. Those were the only occasions that board suffered serious harm at ABCC, throughout the entire period I have been on the Board.

Implicit in Avellaneda’s innuendos is that I was complicit in the two aforementioned decisions that culminated to the board losing its “appeal recently on Las Palmas at the state level.” He portrays to the public that in both cases, he was more concerned than other commissioners of the welfare of the young man whose head was cracked open. Well, I, Ken Umemba, was never in attendance when both cases that Roy alluded to were decided.

Decisions that were made against Plaza Mexico when the establishment made a second appearance before the board need to be clearly distinguished as it has received different responses from many in our community. Avellaneda has continued to flame his minority opinion regarding the majority decision reached in that case.

His dissatisfaction with the majority of the Board rejecting his desire to “revoke” instead of “suspend” Plaza Mexico’s license highlights his abject lack of understanding of proper application of jurisprudence during his tenure at the Commission.

Although the board is imbued with the authority to grant, revoke, and suspend licenses; their proper use is not meant to be as retribution. The context for their usage must be based on “substantial evidence” which “is more than just some evidence to support the conclusion.” The law is clear and well-settled on what does not constitute as substantial evidence. Evidence from which a rational mind might draw the desired inference is not enough. So, the disbelief of any particular evidence does not constitute substantial evidence to the contrary.

Local boards can’t exceed their discretional latitude regarding disciplinary actions. Therefore, the decision that Plaza Mexico received was acted “upon consideration of the entire record” presented to the board.  The majority decision that Roy and other councillors object to, took “into account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its weight” as it rightly opted to “suspend.”

Hence, Avellaneda continues to protest the decision that majority felt to be appropriate sanction. His protest and claim strain credulity because the board was not presented with formidable adverse evidence to affirm his suspicions.

Commissioners make very conscientious efforts to examine facts to reach independent judgments. There is no doubt that, inherently, we are guided by our individual conscience when we examine facts. But, absent the framework grounded in the rule of law, decisions would be all over the place.

We marry our emotions and the rule of law in our decision-making process, as most members of the board understand that conscience is “essentially a judgment of the intellect.” According to a religious pamphlet, conscience is not a tablet, or a book which contains marks indicating good or bad behavior, nor is it some other being inside us giving orders, issuing warnings.

Clearly, the Church and the rule of law help us to form correct consciences by clearly providing objective standards for moral conduct. Hence, we see our conscience as our most secret core and our sanctuary where we are alone with God whose voice echoes in our depths…and the more the correct conscience prevails, the more we turn aside from emotional and blind choices and try to be guided by the objective standards of conduct.

The board does not “condone” Plaza Mexico’s recalcitrance in complying with licensing laws. However, conscientious and objective applications of the law required full consideration in the preponderance of the facts and if they are substantial evidence. Also, to examine if “it is, thus, quite possible for licensee to offend the regulatory scheme without scienter.” The board never purports to be a courthouse where infringed families seek remedy to be made whole again.

That’s beyond our jurisprudence.

Kenneth Umemba, Member

Chelsea Licensing Board Commission

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