Shannon O'Brien, the embattled chair of the state's Cannabis Control Commission, won a procedural victory Tuesday in her ongoing battle with state Treasurer Deb Goldberg when a Judge delayed a hearing on allegations against O'Brien that had been scheduled for 1 p.m.
"Today's court ruling is the first step toward getting my good reputation back after ten weeks of being smeared by Treasurer Goldberg's actions, when she suspended me with no process in place for a fair and impartial hearing," said O'Brien, who was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2002.
A spokesperson for Goldberg, Andrew Napolitano, said the treasurer had been prepared to begin addressing serious concerns raised by O'Brien's colleagues, and that Goldberg "remains ready to hear from Chair O’Brien on these issues as soon as possible."
In making the case for postponement, O'Brien's attorneys had argued that the proceedings should not be closed to the public, that insufficient mechanisms were in place for O'Brien to defend herself, and that what they described as Goldberg's antipathy toward O'Brien would make it impossible for O'Brien to get a fair result.
In her ruling, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Debra Squires-Lee did not endorse the idea that Goldberg is biased against O'Brien, and indicated that the question of whether the hearing will be open to the public still needs to be hashed out.
However, Squires-Lee agreed that O'Brien should have a chance to cross examine the investigator who concluded that she made racially insensitive remarks, given the "irreparable harm" such a finding can create. That investigator was not going to be present for Tuesday's hearing.
Another investigation into O'Brien's leadership of the commission, focused on public comments she made about the employment status of CCC Executive Director Shawn Collins, has not been completed and was not going to be a focus of Tuesday's proceedings.
In ordering the delay, though, Squires-Lee said that the second investigation should be concluded before any hearing takes place, since its findings could overlap with or even contradict the results of the first investigation.
State law allows the removal of CCC commissioners if certain conditions are met, but also requires that they be given an "opportunity to be heard" before that occurs.
The September suspension of O'Brien, who was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2002, has ramped up calls for increased scrutiny of the CCC on Beacon Hill, where some legislators say a multitude of issues at the commission merit closer examination.
Attorneys for Goldberg and O'Brien are due back in court in ten days.