New Bedford City Council Files Mayor’s Veto on Pawnbroker Waiver
NEW BEDFORD — City councilors voted Thursday to file away a letter from Mayor Jon Mitchell vetoing their decision to allow Fall River Pawnbrokers to continue doing business on Union Street, taking no action on the veto.
The mayor had raised an objection to the council granting the pawnbrokers a waiver of residency to continue operating directly adjacent to a proposed substance abuse treatment clinic on Union Street.
But city attorney David Gerwatowski told the council the mayor's veto was improper in this particular case, so the council could freely ignore it, allowing their previous decision to grant the waiver to stand.
The city council had previously granted a waiver of residency for the pawnbroker's new owner, Paul Bryant, who does not live in New Bedford.
Mitchell had argued in his Oct. 24 letter that the waiver should be reconsidered because the pawnbroker is right next to the site where a proposed methadone clinic may be located.
"I am concerned that the colocation of these two uses increases the possibility of illicit activity in their general vicinity," the mayor wrote.
He finished the letter by suggesting the council should have its Public Safety Committee analyze the risk before approving the waiver.
City attorney David Gerwatowski told the council at an Oct. 27 meeting that the veto was improper, citing two cases as precedent that licensing decisions of this kind could not be vetoed.
"If you think that you were acting in a licensing capacity, and the mayor's veto does not apply, then you should not go down the road of the process of overriding the veto," he said.
"But the mayor has the right to submit his opinion to you," said Gerwatowski. "And he did. So if you want to take that as an opinion of the mayor, you could receive it and place it on file."
The license can be issued, he added, because the vote has already taken place, with no further action required.
Ward 6 City Councilor Ryan Pereira said he agreed that the veto came before the council improperly, adding "I think this body should take no action on this veto, and instruct the clerk to issue the license."
The council then took a voice vote to file away Mitchell's letter, with no councilors voting against the move.
"I can't speak for the other members of the city council, but I know for me personally, I was looking at the city code," said City Council President Ian Abreu to WBSM.
Abreu said that Attorney Gerwatowski has many years of experience in municipal law, and that the councilors trusted his judgement that the matter was improperly before the body.
"The last thing I would want to do...would be to override a veto that was not properly before us," Abreu said.
"We want to make sure that we're acting as fair and judicious as possible, to make sure that these processes that come before us are followed to the letter of the law, to a T."