Rockland City Council will take up a proposal to impose a six-month moratorium on allowing any more medical marijuana facilities in the downtown and commercial zones at its next meeting, on Sept. 10, which will be followed by a public hearing at a later date.

Last week, the council voted 3-2 to pass a 60-day moratorium on allowing more medical marijuana facilities, which went into effect immediately as an emergency measure. Meanwhile, an attorney for a medicinal cannabis applicant is threatening legal action against the city for closing the door on his client, and allegations of conflicts of interest against the mayor and a city councilor are being hurled behind the scenes in emails.

So far, the city has received four medical marijuana production facility applications, but only one applicant, Nick Westervelt of Westervelt Provisions LLC, has managed to slip through the permitting process before the council voted to pass the moratorium. As a result, other medical caregivers are crying foul.

Prior to a special council meeting on August 20, developer Michael McNaboe, who has applied to operate a marijuana production facility in the industrial park, claimed that Councilor Amelia Magjik has a conflict of interest with the issue. Magjik, who originally proposed the zoning ordinance to allow Westervelt’s facility — Scrimshaw — to operate, voted for the moratorium while working for the construction company that is renovating the old Baptist church where Westervelt plans to open Scrimshaw. If Magjik had recused herself from the vote, it would have been tied at 2-2, effectively killing the 60-day moratorium.

“I would like to point out that the optics of a city councilor who has a vested interest in one operation over another (I am referring to Councilor Magjik’s business profiting from Mr. Westervelt’s active construction project) moving for passage of said party’s permit approval before also moving to establish a moratorium is not very good,” wrote Mc-Naboe. “In fact, I am shocked and dismayed that she did not recuse herself completely from the process. It is not arm’s length and yet according to news reports she does not believe there is a conflict of interest. I cannot imagine a more clear example of a conflict of interest.”

In a lengthy email exchange on August 14, Councilor Adam Ackor also questioned Magjik about why she did not recuse herself from the vote. He said that had he known about her work for the company, he would not have voted to grant Westervelt the license.

“I’m sorry to hear you feel that way about my integrity. I have worked on the medical marijuana ordinance amendments since long before I started working for my current boss,” wrote Magjik. “Scrimshaw put their work out to bid to a number of local contractors, the company that I work for was hired.”

Magjik also noted that she doesn’t own the company and that the construction company has done work on several businesses that the council grants licenses to, so there are sometimes “overlaps.” Ackor pointed out that she initiated, promoted and voted for a measure that would have “direct benefit” to her employer. In email to The Free Press, Ackor said that while he would have recused himself had he been in her position, he still believes Magjik is “sincere” and “an ethical, thoughtful person on the council.”

According to the city charter’s code of ethics, if a councilor believes she or a family member has “a financial or special interest, other than an interest held by the public generally, in any proposed order, ordinance or resolve on the agenda” they must “disclose the nature and extent of such interest.” After a disclosure is made, the charter states that “such City Councilor shall refrain and shall be relieved, in the discretion of the other members of the Council,” from voting on the item. But the charter doesn’t prohibit the councilor from voting on that item.

Ackor also chided Mayor Valli Geiger for her reaction to a letter from Belfast attorney Joe Baiungo, who suggested that the mayor did not have the authority to call the special meeting. In her April 20 email, Geiger wrote, “I hope that we are all holding firm to protecting Rockland’s right to opt in with care and deliberation and will not allow this kind of intimidation and aggression to carry the day.”

Ackor called the mayor’s message “inappropriate.”

“Your disdain for transparency is legendary at this point, but I will remind you that we as a council are barred from group deliberations via email,” he replied. “I wouldn’t want anyone to mistake from your message that I am a part of some Cabal you’ve formed to fix the outcome of tonight’s vote. Nothing could be further from the truth.” 

The city’s attorney, Mary Costigan, wrote in the email thread that the mayor does in fact have the authority to call a special meeting.