The Springfield Auditor will examine the cannabis company selection process; Advisor says the focus was on fairness

SPRINGFIELD – The city’s internal auditor said this week it will review the cannabis company selection process as requested by Councilor Justin Hurst.

Hurst said he hoped the exam “will shed light on any inconveniences that may arise.”

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and consultant Julie E. Steiner said the process was fair to all applicants.

In-house auditor Yong No said at a meeting with city councils on Tuesday that he would review the process to ensure it complied with city ordinances, cannabis regulations and procurement laws. It also determines whether all applicants have been “treated impartially and equally”. The review will include interviews with members of the review board and others involved in the process, he said.

Earlier this year, the city launched its second round of applications for marijuana companies. Twenty-four applications were reviewed and evaluated by a city committee, and in May Sarno selected nine companies to negotiate host community agreements with, one of the requirements for any marijuana business opening in Massachusetts.

Steiner, a professor at Western New England University School of Law, told city councils Tuesday that the review commission followed “a very careful and very deliberate process.”

She said she welcomed the review and was confident that the committee and other city officials did their best to provide a fair evaluation in evaluating the proposals. She said she was reassuring councilors that “to my knowledge, no one has played any games”.

“I want proper procedures and fairness,” said Steiner. “I would never be involved or in any way reconcile my reputation with people who were not acting in the best interests of the public.”

City attorney Edward Pikula said he found it “quite unusual” for such a request for review to be filed while the city is still in the middle of the process.

Hurst, who formally requested the review this week after a prior oral questioning, said this could help uncover irregularities but also serve “to save the city from future litigation and make recommendations, such as the selection process in future rounds.” can be improved. ”

In early June, Hurst said he was asking the Attorney General and the Cannabis Control Commission to investigate the city’s selection of Page Cultivate, which plans to grow cannabis on 299 Page Blvd. The property is the former Smith & Wesson Shooting Sports Center, part of which is already used by the Springfield Police Department as a shooting range and training facility.

Hurst and attorney Brian G. Shea, who represent another applicant, Diem Springfield LLC, said they do not believe Page Cultivate meets the cannabis cultivation buffer restrictions but was nonetheless highly rated by the examination board and selected by Sarno for negotiation. Shea and his clients listened to the meeting on Tuesday.

Diem’s ​​proposal to retail marijuana on the first floor of the former Macy’s store in Eastfield Mall was selected to negotiate an agreement with a host community, but his proposal to grow the second floor was not selected.

Hurst said on Tuesday that he would not discuss any specific applications, only the selection process.

In a recent press release, he said the selection process had raised “some serious red flags” and “we owe it to all of the other applicants who weren’t selected to get this right”.

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