Framingham License Commissioner Resigns

FRAMINGHAM – One of the City of Framingham’s five license commissioners has resigned.

Commissioner Joao “John” Freitas submitted his resignation this month.

He was nominated to the City’s first-ever Commission by Mayor Yvonne Spicer on December 29, 2017, just days before she was sworn in as the City’s first mayor. He was approved by the City Council in January.

The Mayor’s office has not issued a press release on the resignation.

City Council Chair Dennis Giombetti told Source today, August 21, he was unaware of the resignation. He said the Mayor has not communicated the resignation to the City Council.

Source noticed there were just four names on the letter head for the August 20 meeting, and Freitas name was not listed.

Since late June, Framingham Source has been investigating a possible Commonwealth of Massachusetts conflict of interest violation or an appearance of a conflict violation by Freita, while serving as a member of the Framingham License Commission.

In June, a couple of public and elected officials as well as Source witnessed Freitas behind the bar at China Gourmet on Route 9 in Framingham. (The lead photo with this report was taken that night.)

Source, that night, also watched as Freitas poured a beer from the tap behind the bar, and served it to a customer, sitting at a table.

Anyone who serves alcohol in the City of Framingham should be TIPS certified.

Framingham Police Lt. Mike E. Siaba said Frietas does not have a TIPS certification filed with the Framingham Police.

Freitas, when contacted by the news media outlet last month, said he, and his wife, were consulting with the owner of China Gourmet, a Framingham restaurant, which is granted its licenses by the Framingham Commission.

Freitas told Source he was not being paid for his work with China Gourmet by owner Joseph Zhang.

Freitas also receives no pay from the City of Framingham for being a License Commissioner. It is a volunteer position.

“My wife has long experience as a cook and gave him (Zhang) suggestions on how to approach the Brazilian community (churches, families, companies, graduations, birthdays, weddings). We did this as a thank you for accommodating and investing on the Brazilian soccer games,” said Freitas.  “Joe did not recover the money he invested on the soccer games for projector and screen and my wife decided to help him by developing a Brazilian menu that he can use for his project.”

In an email to Source, Freitas wrote “I have no contract with Joe and have not received any compensation for helping him with the menu.”

“If something is offered to my wife in order to implement the menu or do anything further I will let the board be aware and as for me I am employed by COMCAST and have not received any compensation for the work I am doing with the Brazilian business owners in Downtown Framingham, the Framingham licensing board, and Joe Zhang.  Also my wife has made some suggestions for Josh Horrigan at Angry Ham before he purchased (?) the business regarding Brazilian food (I also explained that I know Josh since 2012 while attending same church) free of charge,” wrote Freitas to Source.

Freitas told Source “I have not represented Joe (Zhang) in any manner nor advised him regarding anything regarding his licenses or anything in city’s limits or business he might be involved in elsewhere.”

“I received the same compensation from Zhang that I received from the City of Framingham. My wife is a babysitter and do not receive any compensation from China Gourmet or any other food related entity. Both of us are very crazy people and do things not for money but we do things for friendship and respect.  We have not received a Dollar neither from Joe Zhang nor Josh Horrigan.  We did things as friends just as they did and will do for our community, if needed I can release my bank statements but keep in mind that in 4 years there will be another World Cup and I am sure that they will again will accommodate the Brazilian Community,” wrote Freitas to Source.

According to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a “municipal employee, even one who serves as an unpaid volunteer on an appointed board, is prohibited from acting as an agent for private clients before the board on which he or she serves.”

The Framingham License Commission issues an all-alcohol license to China Gourmet, located on Route 9 West. It also issues a common victualler license and entertainment licenses to the establishment.

“Public employees are prohibited from, knowingly or with reason to know, using or attempting to use their official positions to secure for themselves or others unwarranted privileges of substantial value that are not properly available to similarly situated individuals. “Substantial value” has been set at $50 or more by the courts and the Ethics Commission,” according to the State’s website.

Public employees, under this law, also include someone who serves on an appointed board, unpaid.

Massachusetts law “prohibits a public employee from acting in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude that any person can improperly influence or unduly enjoy the public employee’s favor in the performance of his or her official duties, or that he or she is likely to act or fail to act as a result of kinship, rank, position or undue influence of any party or person. It shall be unreasonable to so conclude if such officer or employee has disclosed in writing to his or her appointing authority or, if no appointing authority exists, discloses in a manner which is public in nature, the facts which would otherwise lead to such a conclusion.”

The law also covers “an appearance of conflicts of interest.”  While the Commonwealth of Massachusetts statute does not use the term “appearance,” term MGL § 23(b)(3) prohibits acting “in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude” that the official might be unduly influenced or unduly favor any party or person.

An employee or volunteer on a City board who thinks he may have a conflict or is concerned about an appearance of a conflict, typically files a disclosure form with his or her appointing authority.

“Appointed employees must make such disclosures in writing to their appointing authority (the person or board who appointed them to their job). This disclosure must be kept available for public inspection,” according to the State’s Website

In the case of the Framingham License Commission, any one who has a conflict or may appear to have a conflict, would file a disclosure form with the City of Framingham Mayor’s office.

Source requested copies of all the conflict of interest disclosures as required by state law filed with the Mayor’s office in July. Appointed individuals must file any conflict or appearance of conflict forms with the Mayor’s Office (appointing authority).

As of July 25, the Freitas never filed a disclosure statement, according to the  City’s Public Information Officer.

Editor’s Note: Source was told it could not view the conflict statements in person by the Mayor’s staff in early July. Source then filed a Freedom of Information request for the information on July 11 at 2 p.m., and was provided an answer on July 25.

Earlier, this year the owner of China Gourmet came before the License Commission seeking to operate later until 2 a.m.
The Board granted the request, although Freitas did recuse himself from the vote.

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: Phone: 508-315-7176

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