Saturday, December 22, 2012

LIQUORBOARDING THE LAZOS

by Bobbi  Hod
guest contributor


Southbridge residents are accustomed to dirty politics, especially during the contentious election season.  This year's town council race is no different and in fact, may have reached a new pinnacle of sleaze.  A recent campaign being waged to unseat Steve Lazo, the sitting Southbridge Town Council Chair is no exception.  His opponents hope to achieve their goals through any means necessary including official and semi-official investigations of the entire Lazo family, information packets distributed to government bodies and an allegation-filled anonymous letter sent to town residents.  Who is behind this effort and to what end?  Are the accusations justified, or are the Lazos being singled out for political and possibly economic gain?  There are a lot of topics to cover in dissecting this but first let's start with a suggestion of guilt by association and the attempted seizure of a family asset: the full pour restaurant liquor license held by brother Scott Lazo.


On Friday, June 24th, the Worcester T & G published an article by Brian Lee entitled, Southbridge bar’s status raises doubts Lazo pins tiff on politics.  The article mentions a key element in the timeline of events "On a related note, and at the suggestion of Councilor Denise Clemence, councilors on Monday delayed reappointing Bruce W. Newlands and alternate Michael Daniels to the liquor board, saying they wanted to examine the board’s handling of Mr. Lazo’s license."  It is no mystery to residents that Councilor Clemence and Councilor Lazo have been at odds on many issues over the last couple years, often leading to verbal sparring at Council meetings.  Was councilor Clemence right to delay these reappointments for the reason given, or is this politically motivated?  What was made clear during the Liquor Licensing Board meeting of 6/22 was that Mr. Lazo had a valid Certificate of Good Standing and his corporation had been exonerated by the Town Treasurer of any tax delinquency status that could jeopardize his license renewal.
As someone who professes to be concerned about the integrity of following the rules for corporations that hold liquor license, Councilor Clemence does seem to be particularly focused on Mr. Lazo.  To this end, one would be remiss to not examine the other town awarded licenses and the status of their users.   Since we're examining motive, let's first take a look at the license and ownership where Councilor Clemence and her activist group, The Future of Southbridge,  held their regular meetings:  12 Crane Street and The Twelve Crane Street Corporation.
Dale Ferron's focus at the liquor board meeting was initially directed at the corporate entity K Kita Inc. of which Scott Lazo is the Registered Agent and brother Steve Lazo is the President.  Ferron commented on an administrative dissolution of said company that occurred on 05/31/2007, asking why they were allowed to continue holding a license as a dissolved company.  Fair enough, but at this point it's water under the bridge.  In a two day period from 6/21/ - 6/22/2011, Mr. Lazo was able to file a decade of annual reports and have his company reinstated.  He produced the required document, A Certificate of Good Standing to demonstrate this to the Liquor Licensing Board.  Now let's take a look at the Twelve Crane Street Corp.  According to the Secretary of State's Office for Massachusetts (MA Corporate Database), The Twelve Crane Street Corp. has not filed an annual report since 2007.  Though they have not been forced into dissolution, they are also clearly not in good standing (an up-to-date filing of annual reports is required).  Now that the town has focused their efforts on bringing licensees in line and requiring these certificates annually, will they follow suit with anyone else beyond K Kita Inc.?  Will Councilor Clemence demand full compliance from all licensees and add these to her reasons for stalling appointments?
After Scott Lazo had satisfied the corporate entity question, Mr. Ferron directed his attention toward tax issues.  According to MA Land Records, K. Kita Inc has had two separate instances of tax taking with regard to property at 7 Mill Street (the property to which the license is affixed).  One from 2006, which has been fully satisfied, and one from 2009 which is under a payment plan.  According to MA Land Records, the Twelve Crane Corp has a whopping 18 separate tax liens imposed on it by the State of Massachusetts.  One of these delinquencies alone totals over $24,000 (see figure below).  These include unpaid meals taxes dating back to 2007, when the business first opened.  These are taxes on a company that has profited from use of their full pour restaurant liquor license, in sharp contrast with Mr. Lazo who has yet to make dollar one off of his.  If Councilor Clemence and Mr. Ferron are concerned with a license holder having unpaid taxes, why have they focused on a licensee whose tax issues are peripheral to the use of the license and considered in good standing?  Why not focus on a company that failed to pay their obligations as they made their money instead of one struggling to open?
As most Southbridge residents are aware, last Summer 12 Crane Street had its license suspended for circumstances surrounding a "rave party".  Though the owners originally claimed their business was "closed for holiday vacation" it was later revealed that they were actively involved in the rave event (Police Chief Charette claimed he felt he was "lied to" by the owner).  The chaos of the evening led to several arrests including the owner's son, John Gabriel McCarthy, who police determined was dealing illegal narcotics while acting in a managerial capacity for the business.  At the time, pending the conclusion of the investigation, The Twelve Crane Street Corp had its license suspended for two weeks and were forbidden use of their outdoor patio until the end of the year.  Southbridge Police Chief Charette stated that there could eventually be further penalties once lab results determined what type of substance the younger McCarthy was dealing.  Charette stated at the time that because there were only two crime labs that processed this information for the state, it could take as long as six months to receive the information.  Fast forward to almost one year and the police, the business owners and the town have all been tight lipped about the results.  When the Twelve Crane Corporation attempted to transfer their license in February, 2011, the Southbridge Police liquor agent, Carlos Dingui indicated that the company owed an outstanding debt to the Southbridge Police Department stemming from the event.  He said that his department would object to any transfer until this obligation had been fulfilled.  It should be noted that the Town of Southbridge has a precedent for dealing with a business where one of its managers is caught dealing narcotics:  In 2008, Mr. D's Raging Bull, owned by Councilor Nikola relative Nicolas DiGregorio had its doors closed permanently as a result of a similar arrest.  The owner eventually went on to sell the use of the license to a new establishment. 
With regard to liquor license compliance, Denise Clemence, The Town of Southbridge and The Southbridge Liquor Licensing Board have to demonstrate an even hand in their pursuit of investigations and accountability to maintain any sense of credibility.  Since official government departments were used in the attempt to seize Lazo's  license, liability and severe abuses of authority may also be an issue.


13 comments:

  1. Why did the SPD take Favreau's property for dealing cocaine, but when a Concilir's brother us convicted, not only is the property not taken, but the liquir license is allowed to be sold? The owners if Favrea"s should gave placed a sister on the Town Council !
    Cathy Nikolla said she doesn't get compen$ated. as a Councilor, but that kind of influence is worth well over $100,000.

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  2. Ha Ha, how does it feel to LOSE, O'Brien & Martinek? My faith in God and the people of Southbridge has been restored as honesty and integrity prevails. I hate to admit it because you will probably gloat but I've been nauseaous reading your vile vitriol for months although the husband doesn't read it EVER....the lies and BS spewed here is incredible. Again, my faith in humanity is restored and the town can be served by it's many elected officials and town employees with professionalism and efficiency, despite having been "born and raised" in Southbridge, moved in , moved out or GOD FORBID living in STURBRIDGE, which might as well be another country according to some! You will proabably edit this or refuse to print it due to "libelous or inappropriate" content, but you all can kiss my ass. I'm educated too Mr. O'Brien, but sometimes the plain 'ole English language provides us with the best choice of options in getting a point across. I think I've made mine.

    Signed proudly, and will confirm with anyone who wants to ask: Kathy Charette

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  3. Classy, like her husband!

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  4. Kathleen you couldnt have said it any better. The people have spoken. GO SOUTHBRIDGE

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  5. Yeah you made your point.

    You lost your faith in God and humanity until a local election went your way. You like to gloat. You can't spell. You're proud when you tell people to kiss your ass.

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  6. Kathy,

    Despite our obvious differences, I've always respected your moxy and candor...however, I'm neither gloating nor upset.

    I didn't run, so I didn't lose.

    Granted, the people I wanted to win did lose, but I'm starting to get used to that!

    :)

    So how does it feel?

    I'll take the high road.

    Thanks to those who ran, and congratulations to those who won.

    You have to be willing to accept defeat as graciously as you accept victory, so no "ha-ha's" from me, or snide comments.

    Sometimes, there is more to be learned from losing a race than winning one.

    It would have been nice if the dirty emails and "anonymous" letters had been investigated, but it's water under the bridge now.

    This new council has two choices:

    Do what's in the best interest of the people, or the glory will be short lived.

    I hope that they do the former. I would be thrilled if the people came first and not personal agendas, on either side.

    I'm not looking to see this town fail. So now that they have the reigns, let's hope that they do the right thing.

    Have a great day, and peace.

    Dennis

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  7. Peace to you too Dennis and the rest of you. Sorry if I came on a little strong, but it gets tiring seeing the family get bashed day after day when I know how the real story about how hard we work and what type of accomplisments have happened.If you don't believe it, check out the stats about Juvenile criminal activity in the last 10 years. Do I take it personally? Abso-freakin'-lutely! And Jerzy, I am very much able to spell; my typing skills are sometimes running behind the speed of my brain. I don't gloat or brag very often at all, but I am very happy to see that the town government may be able to move ahead with some vision and intelligence and less emphasis on settling political scores.
    One last thing.... nothing to do with these posts, but maybe it will stop some of the BS. When we moved from Southbridge to Sturbridge 6 years ago, we were extremely ambivalent. We loved living there and I always felt like we belonged there. I cried the day the for-sale sign went up on our house. We made a hard choice and did what was in the best interests of our family, financially and for our son in terms of schooling. We inherited my family home in Sturbridge and would have been insane not to make that move at that moment. I really don't think I need to explain this to mostly a bunch of strangers who probably don't care anyhow, but last time I checked, this country was still "free" and we could choose to live wherever we'd like. I also don't think that the particular town one lives in dictates their dedication to a particular community. That's all for now.
    And Jerzy, yes, I'm proud, not of telling people off, but of my family, my husband, and my son. I don't expect you to agree.

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  8. Kathy, no worries from my side. If I were you, and all three of my candidates won, I'd be happy too.

    In the end, I will take any Council that can please, just move forward, get things done, balance the budget, lower taxes..

    I stopped my blogging because I didn't feel as if I was making a difference.

    If this is the Council that finally can do something, I'll be the first in line to congratulate them.

    Having said that, please try to put personal agendas aside, realize the average working man and woman in town is hurting, and things that appear to be little things in town, like the tiny recycle bins, bother people.

    A family of four, every two weeks, I fill the current one to the brim. Why not compromise and give the smaller ones to the people that need them, and keep the bigger ones for those that need them?

    Make this the council of cooperation, and I won't have a complaint.

    And people, Kathy is a good person, please don't beat up on her in this forum. She deserves her opinion and to be heard.

    Peace.

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  9. Good person, huh? She doesn't sound like a "good" person when I read what she is posting here... sounds extremely rude and angry to me.

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  10. I don't think the article Kathy commented on was particularly harsh on her husband. Seems to me like it points out that he was doing his job making arrests and fining those that broke the law. I think the point is that the town is not treating the owners of the licenses with an even hand. Whether it's Lazo's or 12 Crane or whatever, if you get caught not paying your taxes the town should hold your license until you do. If you get caught dealing drugs, especially in a school zone it should get taken away for good. NO EXCEPTIONS!

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  11. Nikolla won by less than two dozen votes, and since both Mrs. Marcucci and Mr. Langevin voted against the landfill contract/expansion, how did Dennis or Kevin lose?

    Mrs. Marcucci was once the Chair of the noard of health, and his now the senior Town Council member in terms of years on the Council. If she isn't the Chair, and Catherine the not so Great or Cuontess Clemence the Chromium Queen become chair, it will be worse than when Lazo was. Both Nikolla and Clemence have landfill related connections that should exclude them from all landfill related votes..

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  12. Yes, she is a good person.

    Take it from someone who can get caught up in politics too much sometimes.

    Excitement at seeing your candidates winning; let's be honest, we've alloveereacted when our folks win.

    She apologized, let's move on, shall we?

    I was half of who it was aimed at, but I never got upset over it.

    Why?

    I've been in Kathys shoes.

    It's called exuberance, nothing more.

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  13. Ken or Dennis,

    Where is the police report on the rave drug test results? How can the town let this business (or any other for that matter) reopen after they were caught dealing drugs to teenagers, in a school zone no less? I like how Kathy Charette gets all defensive but where is she on explaining her husband's inaction?

    Investigating the Lazos for being late on their filings doesn't compare to drug dealing to kids in a school zone honey. Your husband needs to get his priorities in order.

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