Mayor Domenic J. Sarno states, “The process that we undertook was completely transparent and adhered to all the laws and regulations pertaining to the licensing of recreational marijuana. We hired an outside independent consultant, Atty. Julie Steiner, who specializes specifically in this field to oversee this process to work with our professional 11 member review and three member Host Community Agreement (HCA) Committees to assess and grade each proposal.”
Atty. Steiner said, “The City has engaged in a fair, balanced, open, thorough and transparent HCA selection process. The City has done this at the direction and with full support of Mayor Sarno, who, as I can attest, deferred to findings of the Selection Committee – a neutral and diverse body of eleven experienced and respected public officials.”
Mayor Sarno continued, “The Committees put in many hours of hard work to ensure that this process was thorough, fair and transparent. I followed their recommendations to the ‘T’. For City Councilors Hurst, Gomez and Walsh to insinuate that there was anything inappropriate or questionable is absolutely disingenuous and I take this as a personal affront and demand on behalf of myself and all involved in this process an apology.”
Please see the statement below from Atty. Julie E. Steiner.
Statement By Julie E. Steiner, Esq.,
Describing the City of Springfield’s Phase I Marijuana Establish
Host Community Agreement Selection Procedure
Based upon my experience and observations, it is my opinion that the City of Springfield (“City”) has engaged in a fair, balanced, thorough and transparent process for reviewing and selecting the beneficiaries of the Phase I round of Marijuana Establishment Host Community Agreements.
I am legal consultant for the City. I am also a law professor and a member of the full-time faculty of Western New England University School of Law in Springfield, where I teach Cannabis Law and Policy, among other courses. I don’t have any pre-established ties to any particular cannabis business or interest, including the twenty-eight Marijuana Establishments that applied for this City’s Host Community Agreements. The City retained my services in February 2019, just as it was constructing the Request for Qualifications and ProposaIs (RFQ/P) process. My role was and is to assist in the RFQ/P process and to provide legal advice about cannabis laws and regulations.
When I was retained, Mayor Sarno had already established an eleven-member Selection Committee comprised of a diverse body of respected public officials who together brought a cross-section of important expertise to the selection process. The Selection Committee members are, in no particular order: (i) Health & Human Services Commissioner Helen Caulton-Harris, (ii) Planning Director Phil Dromey, (iii) DPW Director Chris Cignoli, (iv) City Councilor Tracye Whitfield, (v) Police Captain Brian Keenan, (vi) Deputy Procurement Director Attorney Theo Theocles, (vii) Building Commissioner Steve Desilets, (viii) Fire Commissioner BJ Calvi, (ix) Chief Administrative Financial Officer TJ Plante, (x) Attorney Tasheena Davis, and (xii) Chief of Staff Tom Ashe.
I worked with the Law Department and the Selection Committee to create the selection criteria and review process for the RFQ/P. Together, we agreed upon a process which sought detailed information about, and balanced, seven criteria: (i) project description; (ii) location; (iii) design and construction; (iv) public health and safety; (v) management and business operations; (vi) equity; and (vii) community outreach. In this way, equity was one of seven criteria that absolutely every applicant would be evaluated upon, among the other important health, safety and welfare factors that Marijuana Establishments must meet. The Mayor followed our recommended process and issued the RFQ/P on April 1, 2019.
The Selection Committee invited applicants to make presentations, and unanimously voted to make those presentations public in order to promote transparency of process. Public presentations took place on May 7-8, 2019.
Each of the eleven members of the Selection Committee devoted a large amount of their time to the review process. There were twenty-three total applications that were reviewed, and the length of a typical high-quality application with its attachments is in the two- to three-hundred-page range. It is important to note that not all the applications were of adequate substance, or rose to an appropriate level of detail or quality. The eleven Selection Committee members were the ones in the position to rationally make substantive distinctions in quality among these applications because they alone reviewed every one of those applications, totaling thousands of pages. The Selection Committee then devoted time to evaluating those applications in detail in terms of the seven criteria. In so doing, the Selection Committee was able to distinguish a detailed, thorough and high quality application from other applications which were not responsive, or not as advantageous to the City as others. The Selection Committee also met on multiple occasions for many hours to discuss their findings.
Based upon the Selection Committee’s detailed, multi-factor evaluation, the applications were then ranked from 1-23. The Mayor, following the results of the Selection Committee’s rank, selected the top four ranked entities with which to negotiate Phase I Host Community Agreements.
In my opinion and based upon my observations,the City of Springfield has maintained a procedurally and substantively fair process for reviewing and selecting the beneficiaries of the Phase I round of Marijuana Establishment Host Community Agreements.