Months following Cannabis Control Commission Chair Shannon O’Brien’s suspension, she’ll be meeting with Treasurer Deborah Goldberg. But late Tuesday, the treasurer's office announced the meetings had been suspended until a later time.

This meeting will allow the treasurer an opportunity to make her case to fire O'Brien, and O'Brien an opportunity to defend herself against claims made against her.

1. A year into her tenure, O’Brien was put on a paid suspension

On Sept. 14, O’Brien was put on a paid suspension by Goldberg. O’Brien was originally chosen by Goldberg for the position in August 2022.

O’Brien was alerted of her suspension by Assistant Treasurer and Chief of Human Resources Swee Lin Wong in an email.

"During your suspension, you may not return to any of the Commission's offices or conduct any work on behalf of the Commission," the letter said. "You will need to return all Commission property, including laptop, cell phone, keys, ID badge, and any Commission documents or files that you may have in your possession, as soon as possible."

At the time, Goldberg didn't offer details on why O'Brien was suspended.

2. O’Brien sued the treasurer

O’Brien responded to her suspension by filing a lawsuit in September against Goldberg, alleging that the treasurer "willfully side-stepped both Massachusetts law and any process at all" in removing O'Brien from her post.

The suit alleged that Goldberg "removed Chair O'Brien without notice, without articulated reason, and without opportunity to be heard."

Goldberg released a statement claiming “several serious allegations were made by a commissioner and CCC staff about the Chair’s behavior and the CCC initiated an investigation, hiring an outside law firm.”

"The law firm undertook an investigation and has returned with a report. According to the CCC’s employee handbook, suspension with pay is the only allowable remedy at this point, as the findings are being reviewed and action is considered."

The outside report alleged O’Brien made a series of racist and culturally insensitive remarks, which O’Brien has denied.

3. O’Brien had a bumpy tenure as chair of the CCC

O’Brien’s one-time ownership stake in a cultivation company that had an application the CCC had taken up raised questions when she was appointed — but she was cleared of any wrongdoing regarding those ties in January 2023.

Over the summer, O’Brien surprised commission members at a meeting when she announced that CCC executive director was leaving and said the commission was “in crisis."

Following her suspension, O'Brien has described the CCC as an agency in disarray, and said Goldberg brought her in to serve as a change agent.

"For over two years, it has become well known that the commission is an agency riddled with internal discord, lack of accountability and infighting," O'Brien said. "Because of a lack of strong leadership, the CCC has been failing to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding legal cannabis industry.”

“Further, and maybe more troubling, it was clear that the agency was failing in one of its central responsibilities: promoting access to a lucrative industry for persons who had been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs, as well as other targeted groups such as persons of color, LGBTQ, disabled, women and veterans."

4. These meetings will determine whether O’Brien is fired

A court decision required this hearing in order for Goldberg to proceed in potentially firing O’Brien.

Thomas Maffei, former president of the Massachusetts Bar Association will preside over the meeting. But it's Goldberg who will make the final judgment on O’Brien’s fate.

Lawyers for both sides will be able to present their reasoning. Although O'Brien had requested a public hearing, the meeting will be behind closed doors — and a list of “permitted attendees” for the meeting does not include the media or general public.

If Goldberg moves to fire the chair, O’Brien could potentially contest her termination with a lawsuit.

Updated: April 09, 2024
Meetings planned for Wednesday and Thursday have been postponed to an unspecified later date, the treasurer’s office announced late Tuesday.