BARRE — Mayor Thomas Lauzon offered an unflattering critique of the City Council’s meeting a week ago as the local liquor control board, telling councilors Tuesday night that he has apologized to a bar owner who he believed was treated unfairly during the tumultuous session.
“I’m searching for the right words, but the only words that I can find are ‘abuse of authority,’” Lauzon said, referring to last week’s meeting with South Side Tavern owner Brian Parker.
Parker was questioned last week by Councilor Paul Poirier, who at one point said he’d heard from past patrons that the South Main Street establishment was “a haven for drug activity.”
Lauzon blamed himself for letting the meeting get out of control and vowed it would never happen again.
“I will not accept testimony from an individual board member, and I will not accept testimony from anyone unless it’s coming from the city manager or the chief of police,” he said, noting that it would take a majority of the council to overrule him.
“What occurred (last week) was not fair, and it was not impartial,” Lauzon said. “It was based mostly on hearsay, and if Mr. Poirier were sitting here I’d be saying the same thing.”
Poirier, who was nursing a cold while watching the meeting at home on television, arrived in council chambers a short time later. Before the meeting adjourned, he challenged Lauzon’s ability to quiet council members who have something to say.
“With all due respect, I don’t believe it’s your authority to tell any city councilor what they (can and) can’t bring before the council,” Poirier told Lauzon.
Furthermore, Poirier said he intends to propose an ordinance that would require the owner of any establishment that is fined more than $500 for an alcohol-related offense or loses its liquor license to appear before the council acting in its capacity as the local liquor control board. He said that sort of ordinance is common in other Vermont cities and towns.
“We’re not trying to do anything that other communities aren’t doing,” he said.
Lauzon said he wouldn’t object to the ordinance Poirier described and said he believed the council rightly monitored allegations that resulted in Parker paying a $1,500 fine for violating state liquor laws.
“Unfortunately what transpired (last week) went a little beyond that, and that’s all I was objecting to,” Lauzon said, suggesting he believed the board “overstepped its authority.”
“You’re entitled to your opinion,” Poirier replied.
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